Award Announcement

Afghan Human Rights Activist Dr. Sima Samar, Former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson, and Former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge Honored with John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Boston, MA, May 24, 2004 - Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy today presented Afghan physician and human rights activist Dr. Sima Samar, former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson (R), and former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge (D) with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Sima Samar was honored with the 2004 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for the courage she displayed in ignoring death threats and defying the Taliban for twelve years to ensure that Afghan girls and women had access to health care and education. Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Dr. Samar became the first woman appointed to a cabinet position in the interim Afghan government. She serves today as the chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson (R) and former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge (D) were honored with the 2004 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for their courage in standing up to the powerful hog industry in their respective states in order to protect the environment and the health of their constituents.

"The winners of the Profile In Courage Award are especially impressive this year because they have all stood up against overwhelming pressure on behalf of those who could not do so for themselves," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

"Today, we honor three individuals who have acted courageously to better the neighborhoods and the lives of their fellow citizens," said Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. "While they have served in different ways, the three people we recognize today have a great deal in common. They have all accepted the risks of standing up to powerful interests when their principles demanded that they act. And they have all shown us how one individual's public courage can bring comfort and support to thousands of people. They are role models for us all."

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to public servants who have withstood strong opposition to follow what they believe is the right course of action. Past recipients of the award include former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, former South Carolina Governor David Beasley, former Georgia State Legislator Dan Ponder, Jr., former U.S. President Gerald Ford, U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Senator Russell Feingold, U.S. Representative John Lewis, California State Senator Hilda Solis, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and America's public servants who responded to the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001.

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 to fight for what they believed in. 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 presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy's May 29th birthday.

Described by one recipient as the "Nobel in government," the Profile in Courage Award is accompanied by a sterling-silver lantern representing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.

Dr. Sima Samar has become an international symbol of the steadfast courage required to demand basic human rights for girls and women in Afghanistan. Through the Shuhada Organization, a non-governmental, nonprofit organization she established in 1989, Dr. Samar has opened four hospitals, ten health clinics, and numerous schools that serve girls and women in Afghanistan. She worked undercover in defiance of the brutally repressive Taliban, the country's ruling military and political force from 1994 to 2001, to operate schools for girls and health clinics for women. Dr. Samar's personal safety has always been at risk, forcing her on one occasion to seek refuge at a United Nations office.

Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Dr. Samar was the first woman appointed to a cabinet position in the interim Afghan government when she was named to the newly created position of Minister of Women's Affair. However, she was forced to step down when Afghanistan's conservative Supreme Court deemed her unfit. Although she publicly reiterated her commitment to Islam and the Koran, local Islamists continued to criticize and threaten her. As a result, she was not included in Prime Minister Hamid Karzai's permanent government. Dr. Samar was later offered a position as Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, a position she accepted and presently holds.

As a freshman legislator in 1995, North Carolina Representative Cindy Watson was the first Republican elected from Duplin County in more than a century and the first woman ever elected to the House from Duplin County. She worked to improve the quality of life for eastern North Carolinians through economic growth, market deregulation, corporate tax relief, and agricultural expansion. After meeting with a small group of concerned citizens, known as the Alliance for a Responsible Swine Industry, she became informed about the health risks of waste and stench from hog farms that caused asthma in children, made walking outside unbearable, and contaminated water wells with E. coli bacteria. She met with more citizens and realized the expansion of the hog-farming industry in North Carolina without regulation would have a devastating impact on the environment and the health of her constituents. The amount of waste produced by the animal and poultry population in her district was staggering, and the means by which the industry handled that waste had proved destructive to the environment.

In 1997, Watson co-sponsored legislation that would force farmers to better handle waste, in part by phasing out hog-waste lagoons that held waste for 9.3 million hogs and by placing a time-limited moratorium on new operations. In the past, big money from large-scale hog-farmers had helped quash attempts at enacting environmental regulations in the General Assembly, but when a hog factory accidentally spilled 25 million gallons of hog waste in North Carolina's New River, the worst spill in state history, the public rallied behind the need for regulations and Representative Watson's legislation passed in 1998. But the state's largest corporate hog farmers joined forces and created Farmers for Fairness to vigorously oppose Representative Watson. From June 1996 to May 1997, they spent $1.4 million in its campaign. Estimates suggest that $10,000 to $20,000 a week were spent on an advertising campaign to smear Watson. Farmers then poured money into the campaign of her Republican primary opponent, targeting Watson for defeat in the upcoming election. In the 1998 primary, despite her incumbent status, Watson lost her party's nomination to Johnny Manning, a hog farmer. After leaving office, Watson campaigned to draft Elizabeth Dole for the Republican nomination for president in 2000 and launched an unsuccessful bid for the North Carolina State Senate.

Oklahoma Senator Paul Muegge put his political career on the line when he authored laws that placed tough new regulations on the corporate swine and poultry industries in Oklahoma. Citing the need for clean air, clean water, and a protected environment to maintain the high quality of life Oklahomans enjoy, Muegge sponsored legislation that would regulate and impose restrictions on hog production to safeguard the environment. His bill required new hog farms to be set back from neighboring properties, mandated water and soil testing, and assessed large farms a 32-cents-per-hog fee to underwrite the new regulations. Although he knew he would be vigorously targeted by the state's well-financed, pro-hog industry and Republicans in upcoming re-election campaigns, Senator Muegge stood firm on his environmental protection legislation. He cited his strong position in the Senate as Chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and support from the Governor, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, and environmental, citizen interest, and independent farmers groups as key to getting the legislation passed in 1998. He also shepherded through a first-of-its-kind bill regulating waste from chicken farms to protect constituents who complained about the waste's hideous odor and expressed concern about risks to groundwater. After a brutal campaign, Senator Muegge was reelected to a third term in 1998 by a mere 67 votes.

He did not seek a fourth term, stating, "There's no better job than serving the people of northern Oklahoma, but just like every job, you eventually reach a point when you feel that you've accomplished everything you can." He continues to be an active voice in environmental and rural development issues impacting Oklahoma and the nation.

Sima Samar, Paul Muegge, and Cindy Watson were chosen as recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's prestigious award for political courage by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, chairs the fourteen-member 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; Al Hunt, executive editor of the Wall Street Journal; U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut); Elaine Jones, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts); Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; 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.

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 who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect men 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."
Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are 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; 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; 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.

Special Profile in Courage Awards have been presented to the Irish Peacemakers, eight political leaders of Northern Ireland and the American chairman of the peace talks, in recognition of the extraordinary political courage they demonstrated in negotiating the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement and 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 (D-GA).

The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum is a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration and supported, in part, by the Kennedy Library Foundation, a non-profit organization. The Kennedy 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.