Transcript of Award Ceremony
Transcript of Proceedings of the Profile in Courage Award Ceremony Honoring the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
December 7, 1998
PAUL KIRK (Chairman, Board of Directors, Kennedy Library Foundation): Good evening. On behalf of the board of the Kennedy Library Foundation I welcome all of you, and I thank you for extending a heartfelt Boston welcome to our special guests. There are some dignitaries in the audience who played an important role in this process, whose presence I'd like to acknowledge. Ireland's Ambassador to the United States, the Honorable Sean O'Huiginn and his wife Bernadette. The Secretary of the Anglo-Irish Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Honorable Dermot Gallagher. The British Consul General, stationed here in Boston, the Honorable James Poston. And his counterpart, the Irish Consul General here in Boston, the Honorable Orla O'Hanrahan.
On our stage, in the second row to your right, first of all I'd like to introduce Paul Murphy. Paul is the minister of state, representing the Government of the United Kingdom. Liz O'Donnell, the minister of state, representing the Government of Ireland. She needs no special introduction to this library, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. And a member of our Board of Directors, husband of Caroline Kennedy, a gentleman who among his other talents designed this lantern, which is the Profile in Courage Award, Ed Schlossberg.
I'm told that the Profile in Courage committee in its deliberations suggested, among other people, that Jean receive a Profile in Courage award, and as they talked about it somebody said, What about Ted? And then it was, Well, what about Joe? And then, What about Patrick? As you can see, it could be pretty awkward if we did all of that, but Jean has earned her own place in history as the most recent ambassador to Ireland of the United States. She did so honorably and effectively, and a great part of this process, Jean Kennedy Smith.
This even begins an historic week, in which a message is conveyed from distant shores to present and future generations of Northern Ireland through their political leaders. It is a message echoed by people everywhere, whose love of Ireland and love of peace go hand in hand. It is one of well-deserved praise and congratulations, and it is one of hope and encouragement.
It is sent first tonight from this library in Boston. It is the Kennedy Award for Political Courage. Tomorrow, it is sent from our nation's capitol. It is the National Democratic Institute's award for democracy. And Thursday, it is sent from Oslo, Norway. It is the Nobel Prize for Peace. Political courage, democracy, and peace. The first indispensable, all now inseparable and, we trust, inevitable. For in the end the history of peace in Northern Ireland will be written because ardent political adversaries had the moral courage to reject habits of hatred, violence and heartache and to choose instead a process of representative democracy in which all have a voice in the process and all share a stake in the peace.
This is an historic moment for the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library. Almost 20 years ago its doors were opened, so that its visitors might be inspired by his ideal--that principled service, sacrifice and moral courage are the qualities which make politics, wherever it may be practiced, an honorable, even noble, profession.
Ten years ago, the Profile in Courage Award was inaugurated to keep faith with that idea and with the admonition of his book: Never to forget nor fail to reward that all too rare quality: political courage. As living inspirations of President Kennedy's ideal, you gentlemen and lady honor his memory, you honor our common heritage, and you honor his profession. He was, after all, an Irish political.
As you contemplate the courageous choices still necessary to secure a once impossible dream, be heartened by his spirit of hope and opportunity, expressed as he spoke of the most difficult and daring challenges of his time and presidency. "We make these choices", he said, "not because they are easy but because they are hard." Congratulations, once again, and good speed on your courageous journey to peace.
I now have the privilege to introduce the Chairman of the Profile in Courage Award Committee, Mr. John Seigenthaler.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER: Thank you very much, Paul. It's my great pleasure, on behalf of all the members of the Profile in Courage Award committee, many of whom are here, to say just a brief word about the award, about its genesis, about its meaning, about its legacy.
The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation trustees created the award, as Paul said, in 1989 as a means of providing a tribute to that virtue President Kennedy so admired--he admired greatly in others--and that virtue which his own life embodied, the virtue of courage. As we all know, his book Profiles in Courage, which won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, defined for us nine Americans who in history had provided acts of leadership and courage that set them aside in the President's mind.
Americans, elected politicians whose bravery in hostile political environments, whose bravery in the face of intense pressures and amidst hostile constituencies, some carrying with it violent threats, voted their convictions over compromise; they stood for principle over politics; they acted with courage and turned their backs on cowardice. Each year over this last decade since the award was created, the committee has met and recommended to the Library and the Library has honored nine American politicians for their courage, for their acts of bravery in the face of hostile environments, in the face of intense pressures, in the face, indeed, of hostile and sometimes threatening violent constituencies.
And so it was, as we met just last May, the suggestion was made that on the 10th anniversary of the award, it would be appropriate to consider a special distinguished prize for a special distinguished group. And so tonight, we are here for that event. Some have asked as they have come into the room, is this the reward that will take the place of next year's award in May? It is not. Our committee will meet very soon. We have a record number of distinguished American politicians who've demonstrated great courage in their acts, in national office, state office, in local office.
But here we are tonight to honor, not American citizens, but eight citizens of Northern Ireland and one citizen, Senator George Mitchell, whose dynamic role in this process we all know.
And so it is with great pleasure that our committee has met, has looked to this night with great anticipation, with great feeling for the meaning of the award. I should say to you that as you look here, to my left, you will see the symbol the award, the lantern. It is created by and design by Edwin Schlossberg. The lantern symbolically represents the beacon of hope, a prism through which the legacy of President Kennedy, as he reflected on the courage of others which he so admired and his own life and career embodied, that prism tonight goes to these distinguished citizens of the world, and may their vision of peace and justice be reflected symbolically through the beacon of the lantern. And our congratulations to all of them, on behalf of all the members of our committee.
It's now my pleasure to present to you the person who throughout the life of this library, and throughout the life of this award, has given vitality and support to all of its projects and to all of its programs.
I know that some of you can tell I come from a state far away, and when I speak to my own senators I say, I look at your votes and tell you candidly, you don't represent me. Ted Kennedy is my senator. And there are across this nation, all parts of this country, people like me who look for him for leadership, for courage in the halls of Congress.
And so, for all he has meant to this place, this Library, and to this award, for all he has meant to people across this country, for all he has meant to the state of Massachusetts, for all he has meant for all of Ireland, for all he is known for all around the world, the cause of peace and justice, it's my great honor to present Ted Kennedy.
SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY: Thank you very much, John Seigenthaler, for that warm and generous introduction. As so many know, John has been a good friend of the Kennedy family for many years and we're honored that he's here with us this evening. And I especially thank John for his impressive leadership of the Library's Profile in Courage committee.
I thank Paul Kirk for the strong support of the library over the years, for all he did so well to make this evening possible. He's been a special friend and a special counselor to all of the Kennedy family and we're grateful for his friendship and leadership.
And also I want to acknowledge two other friends who have done an outstanding job over the year for Jack's Library--Brad Garrett and Chuck Daly. In addition, we want to welcome the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, Sean O'Huiginn, and the two distinguished leaders representing the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom, Liz O'Donnell and Paul Murphy. [Minister Liz O'Donnell, Minister of State at Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs; and Minister Paul Murphy, Minister of State of the Northern Ireland Office.]
It's a privilege, as well, to pay tribute to a very special person, who was present at the creation of the peace process in Northern Ireland and who did so much to make it possible, my sister, Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith.
We are here to honor the eight political leaders of Northern Ireland and the extraordinary former United States Senator who helped make their achievement for peace possible. By their signing of the historic Good Friday peace agreement last April, John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, John Alderdice, Malachi Curran, David Ervine, Gary McMichael, and Monica McWilliams launched a new era of peace and reconciliation for all the people of Northern Ireland. These eight leaders committed themselves to ending 30 years of violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland, reducing divisions between Unionists and Nationalists, and building bridges between these communities.
They committed themselves to finding the needle of peace in the haystack of violence, and they found it. And when those of lesser vision urged a lesser course, these leaders acted boldly. They tirelessly dedicated themselves to the pursuit of peace, and they made difficult political choices to bring their noble vision of peace to reality.
In this season of the Prince of Peace, they are truly princes of peace themselves. As we all now, there are still miles to go before the victory of lasting peace is finally won. But, because of what they accomplished, there is better hope for the future. They have made an enormous difference, perhaps all the difference, for peace. Their achievement in the Good Friday Peace Agreement has changed the course of history for all the people in Northern Ireland. And I ask you to join me now in commending these eight leaders for their boldness, their perseverance, and above all their courage. [APPLAUSE]
We also honor the man I call the peacemaker's peacemaker, the former United States Senator from the state of Maine, my friend, George Mitchell. [APPLAUSE] We're delighted Heather is here, as well.
As President Clinton's Special Advisor on Northern Ireland and Chairman of the North Ireland peace talks, he performed an indispensable service to the cause of peace, by making the Good Friday Agreement possible. All of us who serve with George Mitchell in the Senate know his special skill in extracting a maximum of consensus and a minimum of conflict, among intensely opposing parties.
The parties in Northern Ireland saw that genius at work, too. They agreed that they would each be better off setting aside their entrenched differences and making common cause for peace, or, perhaps, they just knew George would never give up, and would never give in.
George has said that the recent birth of his son, Andrew, inspired him to an extra effort. As he tells it, on the day his own son was born 61 children were born in Northern Ireland. For their sake he doubled his efforts to end the violence once and for all. St. Patrick would call him St. George, and the entire Kennedy family is delighted to honor him here tonight. We love you George, and we're proud of you.
I know that President Kennedy would be proud of each of you as well. In his book Profiles in Courage my brother wrote that "today the challenge of political courage looms larger than ever before." We know how much Jack loved Ireland and its people. If he were with us now, I know that he would call each of these leaders a profile in courage. It is a privilege to have you here in my brother's library and honor you with this award that bears Jack's name as a tribute to your own courage. You have truly moved Northern Ireland closer to the day when the violence will be silenced for all times. You are truly profiles in courage, and we are graced by your inspiring presence.
It's now my special honor to introduce the president of the Kennedy Library Foundation, a leading member of our Profile in Courage committee, President Kennedy's daughter Caroline.
CAROLINE KENNEDY: John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, John Alderdice, Malachi Curran, David Ervine, Gary McMichael, and Monica McWilliams recognized that the path to peace, justice and reconciliation is through dialogue and negotiation, and that progress toward these long-sought goals can be achieved only when leaders on all sides are willing to set aside their differences and find common ground.
These eight courageous leaders committed themselves to ending 30 years of violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland, to reducing divisions between Unionists and Nationalists, and to building bridges between these proud communities. They dedicated themselves skillfully and tirelessly to their vision of peace. Their participation in the peace process led to the Good Friday Peace Agreement of April 10th, 1998, which has changed the course of history for all the people of Northern Ireland. Each of them is a true profile in courage for our time and for all time.
George Mitchell, former United States Senator from the state of Maine, performed a brilliant and indispensable service to the cause of peace as President Clinton's Special Advisor on Northern Ireland and Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks. He used his remarkable negotiating skills to produce a maximum of consensus and a minimum of conflict, among parties with deeply entrenched differences.
He approached the task of achieving peace and ending violence with extraordinary skill and perseverance. He worked closely with each of the parties, heeded their concerns, and enabled them to find common ground in the Good Friday Peace Agreement of April 10th, 1998. George Mitchell is the peacemaker's peacemaker and a true profile in courage. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: With the indulgence of our live audience, this is the photo op., so that those who didn't get the honor of an invitation can see this picture tomorrow and on the evening news.[APPLAUSE]
This is indeed a unique honor for all of us, because I'm told that this is the first time that this group has been together since the famous signing of the peace agreement, so it's a great tribute to this library, and we're grateful for all of you coming here and being part of this special occasion. Anyone who's had the privilege to work with George Mitchell knows that his human qualities--his character, credibility and civility, among so many others--is certainly part of the ingredients that led to the successful chairmanship of the Good Friday agreement peace talks. I'm delighted to introduce him right now, as a fellow New Englander and a great human being. George Mitchell.
GEORGE MITCHELL: Thank you very much, Paul and Ted, for your generous remarks. Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your warn reception for all of us. This is a great honor for me for several reasons. First, I was one of many Americans of my generation who was inspired to enter public service by the life and career of John Kennedy. My first job out of law school was a trial lawyer in the Department of Justice. Robert Kennedy was the Attorney General. John Kennedy was the President. Later, I had the good fortune to serve for 15 years, in the United States, with Ted Kennedy. Each of them--John, Robert, Ted Kennedy--are profiles in courage. Through their careers they have provided inspiration, not just to young Americans, but to people all over the world.
Ted, you're here today as a representative of a truly remarkable family. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I ask all of you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in acknowledging the tremendous contributions to American life, to peace everywhere, made by all of the Kennedys. [APPLAUSE]
A second reason why I feel so honored is to share this award with the men and women of Northern Ireland, with whom I spent more than two years, who I've come to regard as friends and who I've come to greatly admire. In a way that I believe most Americans cannot comprehend, they confronted not just political risks, but personal risks--to themselves and their families, and, in the most exceptionally difficult of circumstances, came together to reach agreement for peace, for reconciliation, in Northern Ireland. They truly are profiles in courage, and I feel honored to have spent that time with them and to be sharing this recognition with them.
I close on a personal note. We reached the agreement early in the evening of Friday, April 10th. We had been in negotiations continuously for nearly 40 hours, and almost around the clock for the previous several days. So when the agreement was reached we were all exhausted and elated. There were tears of exhaustion, of relief, of joy. I told several of them then that, for me, the Good Friday Agreement was the realization of a dream that had sustained me through the most difficult and demanding three and a half years of my life.
Now that that dream had been realized, I had a new dream, and it is this: In a few years, I want to take my young son to Northern Ireland. We'll tour that beautiful country, meeting the wonderful, warm, generous and energetic people there. And then, on a rainy afternoon, which will be easy because almost every afternoon is a rainy afternoon, we will drive to Stormont and sit quietly in the visitor's gallery of the new Northern Ireland assembly. And there we will watch and listen as these men and women and others like them debate the issues of life in an ordinary democratic society.
They will talk of education, health care, tourism, fisheries, and economic development. There will be no talk of war. The war will have long been over. There will be no talk of peace, for peace will be taken for granted. On that day, on the day on which peace is taken for granted in Northern Ireland, I will be truly fulfilled, and people of good will everywhere will rejoice. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: Thank you, George. If I may just interrupt the program a little bit and ask if the staff might put two more chairs up in the back so we can welcome Congressman Joe Kennedy and his wife Beth.[APPLAUSE]
I'm now pleased to be able to introduce a very special contributor to the peace process and to the talks, the delegate to the all party talks, the co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, Dr. Monica McWilliams. [APPLAUSE]
DR. MONICA McWILLIAMS: Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Senator, for making this night possible. Caroline, I remember your father, and I remember him telling us, often, to commit ourselves to deeds and not just to words. And I think on Good Friday that is what we did. We negotiated our way out of the past and into the future; we negotiated our way from the politics of sectarianism and segregation; and hopefully, now, one day, onwards to the politics of integration and pluralism and peace.
You know, we've had a very painful 30 years in Northern Ireland, and, indeed, a very painful summer. And as we stood at the grave sites, over those years, and indeed this past summer, we reached out and recognized the humanity that each one of us had. And what we discovered was our interdependence, one on another. We cannot go on doing this at the grave sites. We now have to do it in the politics of our new assembly.
The people and the parties have committed themselves now to a different way forward. We in the Women's Coalition, and as a member of that new Northern Ireland assembly, I pledge myself to work across the politics of inclusion and to greet and to meet the politics of difference. That is what each of us has now to do.
I want also to take this opportunity to commend each of the other party leaders here tonight. I was the one who told Paul that this was our first opportunity, tonight, to actually be together and to celebrate our wonderful agreement.
On Good Friday, I truly believe that we had interrupted the culture of failure. Senator, I thank you for the hard work that you put into Northern Ireland along with all of your family. And to you, Senator Mitchell, I want to say that I too have two small sons, and on their behalf, and on the behalf of your son and all the sons and daughters of Northern Ireland, we must never fail again.
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of coming here to Boston and, indeed, tonight I see in front of me many, many friends of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. And to you I want to say a special thanks, because you reached out the hand of friendship and it meant a great deal to us in our times of trouble. And tonight we're here in a time of joy.
But in one of your legislatures close by, in Connecticut, I saw a beautiful motto that said: After the clouds, the sun. The sun has come out for Northern Ireland, and I pledge to make sure that it shines on us in our new assembly. I hope, Senator, that when you come, you can be proud of us and that we have now committed ourselves to the path of democracy and nonviolence. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: The leader of the Ulster Democratic Party, Councilor Gary McMichael.
GARY McMICHAEL: Thank you. Can I thank the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for honoring us with this award, and as a leader of the Ulster Democratic Party I'm very pleased to be able to accept this and honored to accept this on behalf of my colleagues. Each of us have had to play an extraordinary role, I believe, over the period of a long period of years, in order to try and bring this society in Northern Ireland forward, beyond conflict and towards peace.
I think that we have achieved more than any of us could have expected and hoped for, and have come through some very dangerous and difficult twists and turns over the period of the peace process so far. But it is still only a very short distance that we have traveled in the overall journey towards an eventual peace.
And I think we have to consider that, and consider that now while we are celebrating what has been achieved, there are very serious monumental challenges ahead in order to assure that a peace process is consolidated and survives.
I hope that on the part of all of us here, as leaders of political parties and movements within Northern Ireland, that we will rededicate ourselves to ensure that difficulties become less difficult to overcome, and that the peace process continues to advance for the sake of all of the people of Northern Ireland.
I also became involved in the peace process dead-so either from a perspective or from a tradition which has inflicted and suffered pain. During the course of the conflict I myself have lost family and friends as the result of the conflict, and certainly, on my part, I don't wish to see any other families have to go through the kind of trauma and anguish and hurt that mine did.
But if you look back five years ago, five years ago, if we had looked at where we would be today, we would never have believed it. So much has been achieved. Let's hope that in five years' time, when we look back we will see that we have achieved double what has happened so far, and hopefully that will realize a day that George Mitchell talks about--when peace is taken for granted. That is what we all long for. Thank you.[APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: A leader representing the Progressive Unionist Party, the Honorable David Ervine. [APPLAUSE]
DAVID IRVINE: I'd like to have to do the thank you's very quickly so I can get to say what I really want to say. I'd like to thank the Foundation. I'm delighted to be here, and would never be here, but they have put us in the frame, so to speak. Thanks to Caroline, Senator Kennedy. A very special thank you to Senator George Mitchell.
I know we're all talking about what the epitome of what our greatness might be in five years. Well, I don't know about five years, but by the time the Kennedys finish and the Mitchells finish and the next generation of Mitchells finish, what will really epitomize how far Northern Ireland has moved is you'll be looking for more inward investment than the United States.
When I was about 14 years of age, what we now know as, "The Troubles," began in Northern Ireland, and we've never had a political crisis without having violence. Well, at the moment, back home, we have a political crisis, and it's almost luxurious to have a political crisis without violence. Just to have the experience of how normal societies might live. And we do have a difficulty, and that difficulty, I think, is compounded, almost, by Monica McWilliams reminding us that this is the first time that this group of people--those people who did broker the Good Friday Agreement--have been together, and perhaps that's part of our problem: that we still have a long way to go.
But nevertheless, I think, as Gary said, it has been quite incredible that 87% of the people of Northern Ireland ten days before the Good Friday Agreement, did not believe an agreement was possible. And if we're having some difficulty, perhaps it's because we're a victim of our own success, that they didn't expect it possible. They expected that the intransigence of those who, if you like, demand that which they know they can't have and then get upset when they can't have it, which is the nature of a divided society; or perhaps those who get up 7 o'clock in the morning and travel 30 miles to be insulted. That's the type of society that Northern Ireland is.
And I can only hope that the little piece of history that we put in place--and I only had a small part of that on the 10th of April, 1998--now called the Good Friday Agreement, will be a line in history that offers the opportunity for young Andrew to come with my kids or grand kids to the soccer match and let his father listen to the boring debate if he so wishes. You wouldn't wish that on a child.
I thank you very much indeed. And if I'm being flippant, perhaps I have a right to be. Perhaps I have a right to be flippant on the basis that maybe I never ever thought having lived 30 years of my life without any semblance of light at the end of the tunnel, I have the right to be flippant. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: The leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, Malachi Curran.
MALACHI CURRAN: Thank you very much indeed, Paul. Ladies and gentlemen, when I arrived at my hotel this afternoon, I was handed a copy of President Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. I first read that book more than 40 years ago, as a young law student, and I can assure you, I never believed, having spent most of my life as a public administrator in government, that I would end up a political leader or end up in this very beautiful city being awarded an award for political leadership. However, you never know what's in front of you. It just goes to show you what can happen in your life.
Ladies and gentlemen, sometimes we're asked, what was the definitive moment in the talks, when each of us knew that it was possible to reach agreement? At the beginning of this year, we had a spate of sectarian assassinations in Northern Ireland, and when the talks resumed after the Christmas recess, we met, and I saw the determination on the face of my colleagues when they asked Senator George Mitchell to issue a statement, in our behalf, that we were determined to stick with this process to reach an agreement.
I knew then that we were going to get it. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to George Mitchell. He's endeared himself to the people of Ireland, he's an incredible man. Without his wise counsel, we would have never have got there in the first place. And I think it is important to understand where we're at. The Good Friday Agreement was a statement of intent. There is a long, long way to go for politicians in Northern Ireland to build peace and democracy in our country.
A very, very heavy responsibility rests on the shoulders of the political leaders in the Assembly, and I'm talking particularly about the leadership of the three major political parties. They have got a very onerous and a very real task ahead of them. I hope and pray to God that they are up to it and that we'll put some of the little local difficulties we currently have at home behind us; that we will see the Assembly up and running; and that we will get to the stage where we can get down to the real issues in Northern Ireland. There are very real issues in Northern Ireland.
There are very, very many people in Northern Ireland that live below the poverty line. You know, ...(inaudible) in Ireland, people frequently talk about this. But there's very real poverty and deprivation in Ireland. And as a member of the Labor movement, my commitment is ensure that we get down to what really counts, the bread and butter issues that are so vitally important to our people. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: The former leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, a member of the House of Lords, Lord John Alderdice.
LORD JOHN ALDERDICE: Mr. Chairman, Madame President, Senators, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much indeed for the invitation to be here and for your very warm welcome. I remember, long before I got involved in politics, speaking to one of my friends, and I was rather dismissive of politics and of politicians. And he pulled me up short and he said, No, John, politics is a very high art, and there are some very high practitioners of that high art here.
That was also a sentiment expressed, rather more eloquently, by Bobby Kennedy, in his introduction to the memorial edition of Profiles in Courage, in 1964, when he quoted Lord Tweedsmuir, one of President Kennedy's favorite authors, and said, "politics was still the greatest and most honorable adventure."
And when I read Profiles in Courage, I have to confess that the one I identified most quickly and most closely was Sam Houston, of Texas. Now I did that because Sam Houston's family came from a little village called Ballyclair, in County Antrim, and my mother-in-law was Houston from Ballyclair, in County Antrim. She wasn't quite so aggressive as Sam Houston was, but indeed, a very fine lady. But I don't think that President Kennedy included Sam Houston simply because he was a fellow Irishman. It was because he was a very courageous man.
Of course, Houston was very courageous in championing the cause of his own community, most famously at San Jocinto, where he pulled together a bedraggled Texan army, confronted the Mexicans, and fought and achieved independent for Texas--indeed, became the president of an independent Texan republic. A very courageous man, championing the cause of his own community. But I don't think that's why John Kennedy included him in the book.
Then there was another kind of courage he showed, because after that he had the vision to accept the challenge of leadership of his own community. He had the vision to appreciate that Texas was going to be greater and stronger and more important, as a contributor, as part of the United States, not just as a separate entity. And he led and strove and indeed represented Texas, as a senator. That's courage, the courage to accept the leadership of your own community. But I don't think that's why John Kennedy included Sam Houston in the book.
I think it was because he understood that Houston had another kind of courage, the most difficult kind of courage for any politician. And I take this honor as an inspiration and as a challenge, a very humbling challenge, for all of us to that greatest courage. Because, you see, all of us, as politicians, like to be liked. That's our strength, that's our skill, that's the source of many of our strivings as politicians. The greatest courage of all is to dare to make yourself unpopular with your own people because of what you believe to be right.
And that's what Sam Houston did. When the Kansas and Nebraska Bill came forward and he knew that everybody was going to oppose what he had to say about it, he still stood forward, with courage, for his principles, and he confronted his own community with what was right. Now, when you champion your own community, they may well back you. And when you accept the challenge of leadership of your own community, they may follow you. But when you accept the challenge of confronting your own community, you risk rejection and alienation, and that's what Sam Houston and so many others in that Profiles of Courage book experienced.
But it is, nevertheless, the height of courage. And so, I thank you, Senator and colleagues, for all your kindness, not just tonight and not just in lead up to this celebration, for such it is, but for your kindness and your involvement over a very long time. But I thank you, too, that in this time of celebration you offer us a challenge and a humbling inspiration: to follow the courage of those who've been prepared, not just to champion their own people and to act as leaders, but that all of us may also be prepared to confront the hard and difficult things, for the sake of what is right and what is good. I thank you, I thank you very much indeed. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: John just told us why all these folks are here. Next, the President of Sinn Fein, the Honorable Gerry Adams.
GERRY ADAMS: In this little pamphlet, there is a quote from Profiles of Courage, and it is: "Today the challenge of political courage looms larger than ever before." I think in many ways that epitomizes what's happening back in Ireland, as we attempt to build new relationship on the island and between the island of Ireland and Britain. So I am delighted to be here. I want to thank all of the committee who bestowed this honor on all the political leaders. I want to thank the staff of the Kennedy Center for the way they mustered us and mobilized us.
I'm also very pleased to have been at my first canonization [laughter]. And I especially want to thank the Kennedy family. [Gaelic]. In many ways, the Kennedys represent, in a very defining way, the role that Irish America and the U.S. have played in the promotion of the peace process back in Ireland.
And I want also to thank President Clinton, who has shown real leadership on this issue and who has led, in many ways, over the last number of years--and I see friends who--throughout this audience--have been stalwart in helping and encouraging the search for peace.
But of course, as some of the other speakers have said, we have a lot to do. I know that everyone who is here shares the imperative that is upon us to resolve the current difficulties with urgency and with determination.
I'm confident that everyone here is of that mind. And I also hope that those who are not here share a similar commitment. We certainly in Sinn Fein will not be deflected from the work which has to be done, from the task which we have, and I think of the sense of the hope, which was generated at home and abroad on Good Friday, symbolized by this award and by tonight's ceremony. But it's almost Christmas, from Easter to Christmas.
So we do have a lot to do, and I think it's up to all of us, collectively and urgently, to deliver on what we promised. Robert Kennedy, and just by a fluke of history, and thanks to the generosity of Ethel Kennedy and Courtney and Paul, I happened to be at Hickory Hill when I had my first telephone conversation with Vice President Gore.
And the Kennedy family, as John Hume can testify better than I, have been intertwined with the search for justice in Ireland. But Robert Kennedy once wrote: "There are people, in every land, who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future. They mistrust the present. And they invoke the security of a comfortable past, which in fact never existed."
He may have been speaking with absent friends. So that all of us be resilient, let us go from here in generosity, and I go from here in generosity also to those who are absent from our event tonight. In the spirit of Christmas, in the spirit of the future, in the spirit of keeping the promises that we made, of fully implementing all aspects of the Good Friday agreement. And it isn't a promise that we made between ourselves or for ourselves. Because the most significant thing that happened wasn't the agreement, in my view, but was that the people of the island of Ireland voted for the charter of change that the agreement is.
So it isn't for us; it's for my children and grandchildren, for David Trimble's children and grandchildren; for John Hume's children and grandchildren; for Ian Paisley's children and grandchildren. It's for the future. It's for a new beginning. It's the promise of peace, and freedom, and justice, for the people of the small island of Ireland. -- [Gaelic]. Thank you. Happy Christmas. [APPLAUSE]
PAUL KIRK: Now, with a little Irish luck and the magic of technology, we will hear from the Nobel laureate, the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the Right Honorable David Trimble.
DAVID TRIMBLE [on video]: I want to send a message of greetings this evening to Senator Kennedy, the Kennedy family, Senator Mitchell, everyone gathered at the Kennedy Library tonight, and particularly, of course, to friends and colleagues from Northern Ireland. I'm sorry I can't be with you this evening. As some of you will know, I have decided in advance to go to Washington with the family, who are here for this message as well, in order to have a break with the family there.
But I must say, I am honored to be a recipient of the Profiles in Courage award. Honored because it links one with President Kennedy, and reminds one also of the studies in political courage that he wrote about. Those studies, of course, those actions, involve people taking crucial decisions. And for most of us involved with the party talks, we took that decision when we entered into the Belfast agreement on that Good Friday, at Stormont. And now, of course, we're engaged in less dramatic, but more important, hard work of carrying the agreement into fruition, getting it implemented, getting the arrangements there, coping with the difficulties that arise--and there have been and there will continue to be some difficulties.
But I think we can cope with them, and we will be able to work them through. Bearing in mind that of course it's incumbent upon us to see that all the obligations in the agreement, all the elements of the agreement are implemented, and that we stick within the broad thrust of the agreement and not try to introduce new elements into it.
I'm sure we can do it. We're continuing to do it. We'll be very much encouraged by the support of people in North America. This award, of course, adds to it, and I'm delighted to be associated with it.
Ted, you'll remember when you were in Belfast meeting Sarah, here, and she still remembers that visit, and we were all greatly encouraged by your support and your interest as well. And I want to say to you and to everyone in Boston tonight, have a good evening, and thanks very much.
PAUL KIRK: Finally, a visionary, a Nobel laureate, leader of the Social Democratic and Labor party, the Honorable John Hume.
JOHN HUME: Well, like all my colleagues, I'm very honored to be in this building this evening and receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award, in the building that was built to remember John F. Kennedy, because there has been no more inspirational leader in this century than John F. Kennedy, and indeed one of the great inspirational leaders that the world has ever given us. One man can make a difference, and every man should try. John F. Kennedy certainly made a difference.
And I'm also very glad to be here, in Massachusetts, to express my deep gratitude--and I know I am speaking for a large number of people in my own country--to Senator Kennedy himself, for the outstanding work that he has done throughout his senatorial career, and I know, from my experience, to ensure that there was a just and lasting peace in our country.
Indeed, when the history is written and you go back to the early days of our Troubles, it wasn't very normal to hear voices coming from America about our problems. But in those days there were four men who got together, two of them from Massachusetts, two of them from New York--they called them the four horsemen. They made the first major statement in Northern Ireland. Go and read that statement today, and you will see the same statement made by President Clinton, 20 years later, as the problem hadn't changed, and neither had Irish-America's approach to solving it.
They called -- they were called the four horsemen. The late Tip O'Neill, Senator Kennedy, Senator Moynihan, and Governor Hugh Carey. They called on the two governments to use their energies to work together to promote peace and agreement in Ireland. Because up till then the two governments weren't too used to working together, you know. And that they would give --the United States would give whatever support they were asked for, particularly in the economic sphere. President Jimmy Carter made the same statement a few months later. And, as I say, we owe a deep debt of gratitude to Ted Kennedy, for the outstanding work he has done for our country, and it was work that was designed to produce a solution that was acceptable to both sections of our people, not victories to any one side over the other. And we owe him that gratitude.
And I'm glad to be here, in Massachusetts, to be able to say that this evening. And also, of course, as has already been said by my colleagues, our deep gratitude to George Mitchell. Just imagine the job that he was left with at the start of our talks. Coming into a room and sitting in the chair and the representatives of all our tribes coming in, you know. And sitting, listening to the tribal arguments that were so consistent in our part of the world. But George stayed there. And his persistence, and his total commitment and his patience, were totally central to the agreement that emerged at the end of the day. And our gratitude to him is total.
But I'm particularly glad that the Kennedy Center has invited all the leaders of all the parties here tonight, to make an award to all of them. Because the greatest thing that happened in this agreement wasn't just the agreement itself; it was that, for the first time in our history, the people of Ireland, north and south, overwhelmingly came out to endorse an agreement and to make clear how they wished to share that piece of earth together.
And the reason that was so powerful was because of the commitment of the people that you are seeing on this stage and the parties that are behind them. And I'm glad that as I'm saying that all of them are here this evening to be honored. Because, as I say, for the first time in our history, the people have spoken.
And that, by the way, was even more important than the agreement: the very fact that the people had spoken so strongly and so clearly, for the first time in our history. And our duty now, all of us--and we're committed to it--is to implement the will of the people. True democracy now in Ireland is about implementing that agreement in all its detail, because that's what the people overwhelmingly voted for.
And as we move now to the new century, let us move to our new beginning. Let us leave our past--and it was a terrible past--let us leave it behind us. Let history judge it. But let's now lay the foundations, as we are doing, for that new beginning, and let's begin to work together in the new century. Because then the real solution starts. Because the divisions and hatreds of centuries that divided our people are not removed in a fortnight or a month. It takes time. It takes what we call a healing process. The foundations are now laid. Our agreement is the framework for that healing process.
And let's now, in the new century, begin the new beginning, and start working together. And as we work together, all of us, and the people that we represent, spilling our sweat and not our blood, the real healing process will take place, and the new North and the new Ireland will evolve, with no victory for either side, but based on agreement and on respect for diversity.
And let us also have the first century in our island history in which we will not have killings of human beings on our streets, and in which we will not have emigration of young people to other lands to earn a living. And as we work together to achieve that, and particularly to use our energies to build rather than to destroy, I have no doubt that we will transform that little island. And we will do it, and look forward to doing it, with the massive assistance and good will that we know exists here, in the United States.
And we look forward to being, as I often say, the off-shore island, in the next century, the off-shore island of the United States of America and of the united states of Europe. Thank you.
PAUL KIRK: When we contemplate the enormity of change that has been affected and the promise of peace, and hear the commitments of these individuals tonight, it's almost impossible not to recall an accolade delivered by the highest of authorities, centuries ago: Blessed are the peacemakers. They shall be called the children of God.
We thank you. Before our special guests leave the dais I do want to acknowledge for your recognition, and welcome the director of the Institute of Politics. Politics, tonight, as epitomized by these gentlemen and lady, we can say it is a noble profession. This gentleman was in the United States Senate with George Mitchell and Senator Kennedy. From the great state of Wyoming, Alan Simpson. [APPLAUSE]
I'm going to ask, if you don't mind, to stay at your place until the dignitaries leave the dais. I hope you'll rise and give a standing ovation as we do so. You're invited to join them shortly, at the Pavilion, which is downstairs, and there'll be people outside to direct you to the Pavilion. But please give a well-deserved salute and tribute to our Profiles in Courage. [SUSTAINED APPLAUSE]
END OF PRESENTATION