Award Announcement

Yushchenko Receives Profile in Courage Award

BOSTON (April 5, 2005) - Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, who survived an assassination attempt and overcame the efforts of Russian-backed political opponents to rig his defeat as the democratically elected leader of Ukraine, made a special trip to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston today to accept the 2005 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award from Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the 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 in American history who withstood strong opposition and risked their careers to fight for what they believed was the right course of action. Past recipients include President Gerald Ford, the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland, Senators John McCain and Russell Feingold, Congressman John Lewis, and Dr. Sima Simar of Afghanistan.

"President Kennedy believed that one man of courage makes a majority," said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, in presenting Yushchenko with the award's sterling silver lantern. "Viktor Yushchenko embodies that belief for a new generation. In the face of corruption, intimidation and life threatening danger, he remained true to the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. His courage has inspired citizens of the world."

Senator Edward Kennedy said, "In his Inaugural Address, President Yushchenko said: 'Only democracy guards the most valuable things for every person - family and children, peace and order, work and well-being.' His inspiring journey to the Presidency of Ukraine has touched the hearts of millions of peoples throughout the world struggling against tyranny, oppression and injustice, and bringing new hope that they too may find freedom and opportunity. Viktor Yushchenko is a Profile in Courage for the ages, and I know my brother would be immensely proud of him."

Yushchenko, who met yesterday in Washington with President George Bush, will return to Washington this evening where he will address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Despite an assassination attempt by a near-lethal poisoning from dioxin, and repeated efforts by Russian-backed political opponents to rig his defeat through election fraud, Yushchenko went on to galvanize the majority of Ukraine citizens who ultimately supported him as the democratically elected leader of Ukraine. His election as President of Ukraine has been hailed throughout the international community as a triumph for democracy.

A Ukrainian reformist politician, Yushchenko was elected president on December 26, 2004, after weeks of turmoil that thrust his country into chaos. In the November 21, 2004 runoff election, Prime Minister Yanukovich was reported to have received 49.5% of the vote, and Yushchenko 46.5%. International monitors declared the elections massively fraudulent. Hundreds of thousands of Yushchenko's supporters took to the streets of the capital and other cities in protest, and what became known as the Orange Revolution (after Yushchenko's signature campaign color) continued full strength over the next two weeks. On December 3, the Supreme Court invalidated the election results, calling for a new runoff to be held on December 26. On December 8, Parliament voted in favor of an overhaul of Ukraine's political system, amending the constitution to reform election laws and transferring some presidential powers to the Parliament. In the final presidential runoff on December 26, Viktor Yushchenko won 52% of the vote to Yanukovich's 44.2%. Yanukovich resigned as prime minister on Dec. 31, 2004. Through it all, Yushchenko survived a near lethal poising by dioxin and had to be hospitalized for several weeks shortly before the November election.

Yushchenko, 50, was born in a village in northeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border, to a family of teachers. He studied at the Ternopil Finance and Economics Institute in Western Ukraine and began his ascent in public life in 1993 when he became head of the National Bank.

Yushchenko is best known within the international community for his record as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Confirmed by Parliament in December 1999, he served through April 2001 and, in 16 months in office, oversaw a series of key economic reforms that brought rudimentary order to help turn around Ukraine's then-struggling economy. In the process, Yushchenko and his allies unsettled the country's oligarchs and in 2001 Yushchenko was fired by President Leonid Kuchma. In March 2002, Yushchenko's opposition coalition, Our Ukraine, won the largest bloc of seats in parliamentary elections, and the former prime minister suddenly became the leading opposition candidate to succeed Kuchma.

Yushchenko is married to Kateryna Chumachenko, a U.S. citizen whose parents were Ukrainian exiles. The couple has three children.

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. Described by one recipient as the "Nobel in Government," 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.

Viktor Yushchenko 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. 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, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News; U.S. Representative Nancy Johnson (R-Connecticut); Elaine Jones, former 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.

Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are 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; 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 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.


Press contact: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1656