Award Announcement

Senator Edward M. Kennedy Honored with John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Washington, DC, March 8, 2009 – Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy was presented with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award this evening during a star-studded celebration of the Senator’s 77th birthday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Among those on hand to help celebrate the senior Senator from Massachusetts were President and Mrs. Obama.

Kennedy has been consistently nominated for the prestigious award for political courage over the years, but was not eligible for the honor while he served on the Profile in Courage Award selection committee. This year, members of the bipartisan award committee were unanimous in their decision to present Senator Kennedy with the award that celebrates his brother’s legacy.

“Every year Senator Edward M. Kennedy is nominated for his statesmanship and leadership on the most pressing issues facing our nation,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “His passionate advocacy on behalf of civil rights, human rights, voting rights, economic, social and environmental justice – and his long battle to achieve quality affordable health care for all Americans – are each deserving of an award. On the challenging issues of immigration, and the war in Iraq, he has led the debate just as he has done throughout his career on every controversial issue of our time. Knowing how much Uncle Teddy enjoys celebrating his birthday, the members of the Profile in Courage Award Committee determined that that this would be an appropriate time to present this award for political courage to the American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country.”

Caroline Kennedy and Al Hunt, Chairman of the Profile in Courage Award Committee, made the formal presentation of the award together from the stage at the Kennedy Center. The award, represented by a sterling silver lantern modeled after one belonging to the battleship U.S.S. Constitution, was presented with the following citation:

In 1956, John F. Kennedy wrote a book about the grace and courage of eight United States Senators who risked their careers to stand up for American ideals. Profiles in Courage foretold the extraordinary grace and courage of another United States Senator, Edward M. Kennedy, whose perseverance on behalf of the vulnerable and the voiceless has, for 47 years, weathered every storm.

The political valor of Edward Moore Kennedy exceeds what can be told in a single volume. When principle demands that he stand alone, he stands alone. When the public interest calls for compromise, he compromises. When hope and human dignity can be advanced by reaching across the aisle, he extends his hand. He carries the nation on his shoulders through the most important struggles of our time – for justice, for equality, for opportunity, for freedom.

For all of these reasons, the Profile in Courage Award is presented to Edward M. Kennedy, in recognition of his distinguished public service, and the example he has set of political courage in American public life.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. The award is named for President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award™ in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service. It is normally presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy’s May 29th birthday. The Profile in Courage Award is represented by a sterling-silver lantern symbolizing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.

In selecting a recipient, the Profile in Courage Award Committee considers public servants who have demonstrated the kind of political courage described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Kennedy wrote:

In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.

Senator Kennedy was chosen as the recipient of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Al Hunt, Washington Executive Editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Michael Beschloss, author and presidential historian; David Burke, former president of CBS News; U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, president and chief executive officer of the California Community Foundation; Elaine Jones, director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. Shattuck is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and a former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California; Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio; former Mississippi Governor William Winter; Houston Mayor Bill White; Superintendent of Schools for St. Bernard Parish, Doris Voitier; former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; U.S. Representative John Murtha; Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko; United States Army Sergeant Joseph Darby; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff; Afghan physician and human rights activist Dr. Sima Samar; former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson; former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge; former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes; former South Carolina Governor David Beasley; former Georgia State Representative Dan Ponder, Jr.; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; former Palos Heights, Illinois, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven; former U.S. President Gerald Ford; former California State Senator Hilda Solis; U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona; U.S. Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; Garfield County, Montana Attorney Nickolas Murnion; the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland who negotiated the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement; Circuit Court Judge of Montgomery County, Alabama Charles Price; former Calhoun County, Georgia School Superintendent Corkin Cherubini; former U.S. Congressman Michael Synar of Oklahoma; U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas; former New Jersey Governor James Florio; former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, Jr.; former U.S. Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia; and former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama.

A Special Profile in Courage Award was presented to America’s public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement has also been presented to U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy Presidential Library and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service. For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, visit


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Tom McNaught