Acceptance Speech

Remarks of Justice Charles Longstreet Weltner
Recipient of 1991 Profile in Courage Award
May 29, 1991

There are not many people who match, in reality, the concept of courage that President Kennedy began to set before us three and a half decades ago. There are not many, and I am not one of them. But I take comfort in your remembrance of things that happened long years ago, and I accept this wonderful award with deep gratitude.

President Kennedy knew, with Plutarch, that human beings are moved, not so much by abstraction and theory, as by the acts and lives of other human beings. He believed that public officers are trustees and servants of the people. He believed that public life must be lived for the public good. His book Profiles in Courage is powerful evidence that the acts of a public person can be faithful — faithful to self, and to the public interest.

The nation needs to promote and support the high calling of public service; and young people need to know that. I hope that communities across the country will begin to acknowledge and applaud faithful, steadfast men and women. Let public officers know that the people expect from them nothing less than the best they have to give; and let the people demand just that.

The very symbol of such a public commitment, undaunted and entire, is the life of President Kennedy.

He stood for a nation that knows the difference between right and wrong: between truth and falsehood: between sense and nonsense.

The radiance of that life will brighten the ways of my children, and of yours, for a long time.