Remarks by Caroline Kennedy

United in the belief that America’s very democracy is threatened by the flood of money in our electoral system, two men, quite different in personal and political background, came together to propose real change and reform in the financing of this country’s elections.

In so doing, they have dedicated themselves to an issue that at first blush appears to have little public reward. Still, they have fought for their position with a determination and vigor that has put their public lives or political ambitions at risk.

One man, Senator Russell Feingold, seeking his first re-election to the United States Senate unilaterally adopted the financial restrictions he had proposed in the Senate - while his opponent was free to raise and spend money at will. While ultimately successful, a once comfortable race for re-election came as close to the edge of defeat as possible.

The other man, Senator John McCain, intent on his first attempt at capturing his party’s nomination for the Presidency, stood in open and painful opposition to the position taken by his party’s leadership. Despite the intense pressures and feelings that are unique to such internal political struggles, this man has once again in his life not wavered or sought relief from his situation.

Such acts of courage are of greater meaning in the context of today’s public cynicism about whether people in elective office have the steel or resolve to stop the corrosive effect of money on the electoral process.

John F. Kennedy warned that the “high court of history” would judge all elected officials one day on whether they were people “with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligations or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.”

John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, are two courageous men who have nothing to fear before the court of history.

Remarks delivered by Caroline Kennedy on presenting the 1999 Profile in Courage Award, May 24, 1999.