Indiana Student’s Work Chosen as Best Entry in National John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest

News Release 
For Immediate Release 
Further Information: Tom McNaught (617) 929-1230 
Tuesday, May 02, 2000 

Read the 2000 winning essay by Peter Buttigieg.

Peter Buttigieg, a senior at St. Joseph’s High School in South Bend, Indiana, will be honored by Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy’s family during a May 22, 2000 ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library for his prize-winning entry in the national John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for High School Students. 

The Profile in Courage Essay Contest invites students from across the nation to write an essay about a current political issue at the local, state or national level and an elected official in the United States who is acting courageously to address that issue. 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 essay contest, which includes a $3,000 prize, is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Fleet Bank. 

Buttigieg’s essay, which was chosen from more than 600 essays submitted by high school students across the nation, centered on the integrity and political courage demonstrated by U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the nation’s only Independent member of Congress. 

“Sanders’ courage is evident in the first word he uses to describe himself: Socialist,” Buttigieg writes. His essay cites a number of the Congressman’s courageous and politically risky stands on issues facing the nation, including his strong support for gun control and same-sex marriages, and for his advocacy for senior citizens affected by inflated drug prices in the United States. 

Noting that Sanders’ candor “does not in itself represent political courage,” Buttigieg’s essay cites the Congressman’s contribution as “a powerful force for conciliation and bi-partisanship on Capitol Hill.” He is one who represents President Kennedy’s ideal of “compromises of issues, not of principles,” Buttigieg writes. 

Buttigieg’s essay concludes: 

Sanders’ positions on many difficult issues are commendable, but his real impact has been as a reaction to the cynical climate which threatens the effectiveness of the democratic system. His energy, candor, conviction, and ability to bring people together stand against the current of opportunism, moral compromise, and partisanship which runs rampant on the American political scene. He and a few others like him have the power to restore principle and leadership in Congress and to win back the faith of a voting public weary and wary of political opportunism. Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service. I can personally assure you this is untrue. 

Buttigieg and his family will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the May 22 award ceremony honoring California state senator Hilda Solis, this year’s recipient of the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Solis, the first Latina elected to the California State Senate, is being honored for overcoming the strong opposition of a former governor and the California business lobby to win environmental protections for minority communities. 

Buttigieg’s essay was chosen as the winning entry by a nine-member committee chaired by John Seigenthaler, Chairman of the Freedom Forum at the First Amendment Center, Vanderbilt University. The committees other members are: David Burke, former executive vice president of ABC News and former president of CBS News; Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Childrens Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Edward M. Kennedy, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts; Caroline Kennedy, author, attorney, and president of the Kennedy Library Foundation; David McCullough, historian and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning biography Truman; Alan Simpson, former U.S. Senator of Wyoming, and director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard Universitys Kennedy School of Government; and Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senator from Maine. 

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest is designed to help high school students appreciate the importance of public service and the difficult choices that politicians often face," said Charles U. Daly, Executive Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation. "Democracy faces enough challenges today without saddling our youth with doubt and cynicism about their elected leaders. Peter Buttigieg is to be congratulated for understanding why President Kennedy most admired those politicians who have the courage to make decisions of conscience without regard for the consequences." 

Buttigieg, who is president of his senior class at St. Joseph’s High School, lives in South Bend with his parents, Jennifer Anne Montgomery and Joseph A. Buttigieg. Buttigieg plans to study international relations and Arabic at Harvard. 

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.