2001 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest Recipients Announced

For Immediate Release: May 4, 2001
Further information: Tom McNaught (617) 514-1662

Boston - Stephanie Dziczek, a 17-year old junior at Holmes High School in Covington, Kentucky, and Tyler Boersen, an 18-year old senior at Haslett High School in Haslett, Michigan will be honored by Caroline Kennedy and other members of President Kennedy's family during a May 21 ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston for their prize-winning entries 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 first place prize, is sponsored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Fleet. It is Fleet's fourth year of sponsorship. The winning essays were selected from a total of 1,176 submissions from high school students across the nation.

Dziczek's essay centered on the integrity and political courage demonstrated by Vermont Governor Howard Dean who risked his political career by supporting the Vermont legislature's Civil Unions Bill granting full and equal protections to gay and lesbian couples. In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that committed same-sex couples must receive the same protections and benefits of marriage. Despite a major backlash campaign against Dean and the legislators responsible for crafting and enacting the legislation providing the court-ordered civil rights protections, Governor Dean strongly defended the legislation he had signed and the principles it represented.

Boersens's winning essay highlighted the political courage demonstrated by Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak who was targeted for defeat by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby after he made a decision of conscience and voted against an NRA backed amendment. Though an NRA member and a strong opponent of most gun control legislation, Congressman Stupak put his career in jeopardy by going up against the powerful lobby and an amendment it supported that was designed to effectively kill post-Columbine High School legislation requiring a 72-hour background check for gun purchases. "If you're going to have a check system, then it has to apply equally to everybody" Stupak said. Despite an NRA-backed opponent in a district heavily opposed to any gun control legislation, Stupak's courageous and principled stand won back the support of his constituents.

This year marked the first time in the Award's history that two essays were chosen to share top honors. The First Amendment Center, which works to preserve and protect First Amendment freedoms through information and education, stepped forward to contribute an additional $3,000 first-place prize.

Dziczek, Boersen and their families will be the guests of the Kennedy family and the Kennedy Library Foundation at the May 21 award ceremony honoring former U.S. President Gerald Ford, this year's recipient of the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. President Ford is being honored for presiding over the country's recovery from what he called "our long national nightmare" and for making a controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Richard M. Nixon. The Profile in Courage Award Committee is also honoring civil rights legend and U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) with a special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement. The special award presentation to Lewis marks the 40th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides for which John Lewis risked his life and was beaten severely by mobs for challenging segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is presented annually to an elected official who has withstood strong opposition from constituents, powerful interest groups or adversaries to follow what she or he believes is the right course of action. The Profile in Courage Award was created by the Kennedy Library Foundation in 1989 to honor President Kennedy's commitment and contribution to public service. It is presented on or near May 29, in celebration of President Kennedy's birthday.

Boersen and Dziczek were chosen as this year's co-recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's Profile in Courage Essay Contest by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national political and community leaders, including presidential historian David McCullough; U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA); John Seigenthaler, Founder of the First Amendment Center; David Burke, former president of CBS News; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund; Antonia Hernandez, President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Elaine Jones, Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; and Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

"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 John Shattuck, Chief Executive Officer of the Kennedy Library and Foundation. "Democracy faces enough challenges today without saddling our youth with doubt and cynicism about their elected leaders. Stephanie Dziczek and Tyler Boersen are 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."

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.