Acceptance Speech

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am honored and humbled and I must confess a little bit awestruck to be the recipient of this award.

Whatever recognition I receive is due to my family, my friends and Oklahomans whose faith and support in me through the years has made me a better Congressman and person.

As this century comes to a close, our nation and our world once again face great challenges.

I do not believe that we can approach these challenges relying on misconceptions, misinformation and misunderstanding.

I do not believe we can solve our problems by wasting time worrying about labels, liberal or conservative.

And I do not believe that we will conquer the future if we are paralyzed by fear or silence.

I believe that in a nation of immigrants whose forbearers gave up a life they knew to risk everything for a better life, qualities of leadership run deep within the American people.

I believe that to be courageous is to be guided by your own internal moral compass rather than popular decisions and madness of crowds.

All across this nation ordinary men and women are displaying those qualities of leadership.

Members of school boards are resisting pressure from extremists to control school board curriculum.

Doctors are literally risking their lives to make a woman's right to choose a meaningful choice. And some unknown public defender will give an unpopular plaintiff his or her constitutional right to a fair trial.

All across this country you can find examples of such courage. As was said of the Marines at Iwo Jima in 1944: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

These thousands of men and women of courage are living refutation of the belief that public office can only be held by a slavish devotion to public opinion polices. Each day these people respond without reservation to President John F. Kennedy's call when he said: “Whether we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage? Second, were we truly men of judgment? Third, were we truly men of integrity? And finally, were we truly men of dedication?”

I believe America and, yes, the world, needs bold, dynamic leadership unafraid of the risks. Without such courageous leadership truth indeed will be snuffed out by fear and silence.

William Faulkner pointed the direction – “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty, and truth, and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”

In my life, I've tried to demonstrate such resolve – to walk in my fellow man's steps before I led – to care for others before myself – and to do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Let this award serve as notice that fidelity to the truth, simply doing what is right, and courage count. For those who have chosen and those who will choose this course, thank you.

And on behalf of myself and my family, I thank you.

Remarks made by Oklahoma Congressman Michael Synar on receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, May 8, 1995.