Remarks by Caroline Kennedy

Today, we honor three public servants whose courageous leadership has made a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. Debra Bowen, Jennifer Brunner and William Winter are a testament to President Kennedy’s belief that every individual has the power to make a difference for others, and everyone should try.

The presidential election crisis of 2000 put a spotlight on our antiquated election systems, and propelled a sweeping migration to new voting technology. A number of states moved swiftly to adopt electronic voting systems, hoping to restore public confidence in the fairness and accuracy of our elections. But the new systems brought new challenges.

When a comprehensive review of California’s new electronic voting machines revealed that election results could be altered on the new machines, Secretary of State Debra Bowen did not wait for things to go wrong on election night. Instead, she rewrote the rule book on voting machine security, bringing courage and resolve to the challenge of ensuring a fair and accurate vote in California, even if it meant returning to paper ballots. Debra Bowen has never wavered in her political courage and determination to protect every voter’s voice. We are pleased to present her with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.

(Presentation of Lantern to Debra Bowen.)

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner took office after a series of election problems had badly shaken voter confidence in her state. In the face of blistering political opposition, she has made difficult and sometimes controversial decisions in order to restore the integrity and the accuracy of Ohio elections. She has stood her ground with voting machine vendors and political partisans, and has been unwavering in her determination to see that every vote is accurately recorded and counted. For her dauntless commitment to the enfranchisement of every Ohio voter, we are happy to present Jennifer Brunner with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.

(Presentation of Lantern to Jennifer Brunner.)

William Winter has spent a lifetime speaking out for justice in the face of indifference and hatred. For more than 60 years, he has brought opportunity and hope to generations of the impoverished and the disenfranchised. As a young politician, he stood up for racial tolerance at a time when doing so often meant losing your next election. As governor, with remarkable tenacity and spirit, he envisioned and worked for sweeping changes in a public education system that had long turned its back on the children of Mississippi. As a private citizen, he has remained a passionate and compelling voice for the very young and the disadvantaged. His is a lifetime of political courage, and we are honored to present him with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.

(Presentation of Lantern to William Winter.)

Remarks made by Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, on presenting the 2008 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards, May 12, 2008.