Acceptance Speech

To the family of President John F. Kennedy, members of the Kennedy Library Foundation, members of the Selection Committee, I am humbled by this honor. I stand before you today with a renewed dignity in Public Service.

I would not be here before this distinguished gathering if my fellow citizens were not in need of things that only government can and should provide.

I pay tribute to the significant people in my life. My wife Nancy who’s personal sacrifices and support always made a difference in helping my public life, our three sons and daughter and daughter-in-law and grandchildren, David and Ryan who take pride in sharing my accomplishments in public and private life.

I said goodbye to my 91-year-old father just two weeks after Caroline Kennedy called with the news of the Profile in Courage honor. My father gave me the compassion for life and serving others. My mother more than anyone, understands why I am here this evening, she still gives me the confidence to make a difference.

I pay tribute to my legislative colleagues, my executives assistant, the many staff people who were there to assist me in making those day to day decisions that make our democracy work. Also I thank the citizens of the Senate district I represented in Oklahoma who hired me to represent them for twelve years.

At my retirement I received many gifts and honors. One very special gift, some of my great rural supporters gave me, is a natural stone desk plate with a shock of wheat and the inscription, Senator Muegge “You never forgot where you were from” Yes, I am a real live farmer and when I return to Oklahoma the wheat will be ready to harvest on our family farm. There again I will renew my commitment to the environment and to a way of life. It is not all about business, economics and the bottom line or the next quarterly report. It is truly a way of life and this is what I want to give myself, to future generations. I know my reputation in politics will be about the struggles we have in defining environment. Environment is a quality of life issue. It is where you and I live.

Native American culture is a very significant part of Oklahoma life. Please consider a Hopi Elders commitment to courage. Yes, it is the message that John F. Kennedy penned concerning the True Democracy.

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:

“The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people – faith that the people will not simply elect men and women who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect those who will exercise their conscientious judgment – faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor and ultimately recognize right.”

The Hopi elders said:

“There is a river flowing very fast. It is so swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel that they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know that the river has a destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river.

“Keep our eyes open and our heads above the waters. And I say, see who is in there with you and Celebrate! At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment we do, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves together. Banish the word Struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we know must be done in sacred manner and in Celebration!”

This profound statement and advice based upon ancient prophecy is obviously valid for these times, but how does one do this push off into the swift river of today?

“What you put your attention on is what you become conscious of.”

This is one rule we cannot break. It is inescapable. So let us use this principle to our advantage.

Remarks delivered by former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge at the Profile in Courage Award Ceremony, May 24, 2004.