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New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to Receive the
John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for
Removal of Confederate Monuments

Boston MA – The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation today announced that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will receive the 2018 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ for his leadership in removing four Confederate monuments in New Orleans while offering candid, clear and compassionate reflections on the moment and its place in history. The prestigious award will be presented by President Kennedy’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, at a ceremony on May 20, 2018 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

“Mayor Landrieu turned a difficult and divisive issue into an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history and to recommit ourselves to our founding principles of equality and justice. The Mayor explained what the monuments represent – a dark chapter in our history that should neither be forgotten, misunderstood nor glorified,” said Schlossberg. “In a year marked by continued racial injustice, in a moment of misguided national leadership and heightened division, Mayor Landrieu’s courage stands out brightly as an affirmative step in the right direction. President Kennedy believed that at its best, politics was a noble profession – Mayor Landrieu is living proof of that bold proposition.”

Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans in 2010. In June 2015, more than a year into his second term, nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina were killed by a white supremacist. Responding to the racially motivated violence with a dramatic decision of conscience, Landrieu boldly sought and secured city council support to remove four of New Orleans’ Confederate monuments – statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, and one dedicated to those who opposed Reconstruction. While civil rights advocates had long called for the removal of New Orleans’ Confederate monuments, Landrieu was the first elected official to take on the controversial issue directly by conceiving and implementing a plan to remove them.

The move was met with fierce opposition. Landrieu faced impassioned constituents who argued the statues represented an important part of the state's identity and culture. Defenders of the monuments tried every possible legal channel to halt their removal. Confederate sympathizers from around the country and threats sent from across the internet added fuel to the debate. Contractors who signed up for the removal received multiple death threats, and one of them had his car firebombed.

After a bitterly fought battle, in May 2017, the fourth of the longstanding statues was removed. While the monuments were dismantled at night to protect the contractors, Landrieu did not allow the significance of the moment to go unnoticed. He made a sweeping speech candidly reflecting on the history of slavery and brutality that undergirded the monuments, and appealing to public conscience to reckon truthfully with America’s enduring legacy of racism.

"This is not about politics. This is not about blame or retaliation," Landrieu said. "This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once. This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most important, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong."

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service, and to celebrate his May 29th birthday. The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional 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 who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups, by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.

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. Previous recipients include former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush; former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords; U.S. Senator John McCain; Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee; U.S. Representative John Lewis; and former California State Senator and U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

The recipients of this prestigious award for political courage are selected by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Albert R. Hunt, columnist for Bloomberg View, chairs the 15-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are Christopher Dodd, former U.S. Senator (D-Connecticut), now senior counsel for Arnold & Porter; former U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Maryland); Kenneth R. Feinberg, chairman emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona); Adam Frankel, former speechwriter to President Barack Obama, now Senior Director, CEO Communications at PepsiCo; U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii); Antonia Hernandez, President and Chief Executive Officer of the California Community Foundation; Sherrilyn Iffil, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; former U.S. Congressman and Profile in Courage Award Honoree Bob Inglis (R-South Carolina); Elaine Jones, Director-Counsel Emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Martha Minow, Carter Professor of General Jurisprudence, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor; Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of CBS and Viacom; Jack Schlossberg, grandson of John F. Kennedy; and David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization founded in 1984 to provide financial support, staffing, and creative resources for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The Kennedy Presidential 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. 

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