2009 Profile in Courage Award Recipients Announced

For Immediate Release: March 25, 2009
Further information: Tom McNaught 617-514-1656, Tom.McNaught@JFKLFoundation.org

Boston MA – Sheila Bair, chair of the FDIC, and Brooksley Born, former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award,™ in recognition of the political courage each demonstrated in sounding early warnings about conditions that contributed to the current global financial crisis.

Also being honored as 2009 Profile in Courage Award recipients are Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and the many women who worked with her in pushing for peace and paved the way for democracy after years of violent conflict in their country.  Gbowee will accept the award on behalf of her countrywomen.

The prestigious award for political courage, announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, will be presented by Caroline Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 18.

Today’s announcement follows the presentation of a 2009 Profile in Courage Award earlier this month to Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts who was recognized by the bipartisan award committee for his many acts of political courage in standing up for the vulnerable and the voiceless.

“Sheila Bair , Brooksley Born and Leymah Ghowee and her countrywomen all share uncommon courage,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “From the corridors of wealth and power in the United States government, to the  violent and impoverished streets of Liberia these women were not afraid to risk their careers, their relationships, their reputations, and even their lives, to speak truth to power and advocate for the powerless millions they represented.  As appointed officials and citizen activists, they have inspired all those who wish to bring about meaningful change to their political systems.

“Sheila Bair and Brooksley Born recognized that the financial security of all Americans was being  put at risk by the greed, negligence and opposition of  powerful and well connected interests,” Kennedy said.” The catastrophic financial events of recent months have  proved them right. Although their warnings were ignored at the time, the American people should be reassured that there are far-sighted  public servants at all levels of government who act on principle to protect the people’s interests.

“Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia assumed personal responsibility for their national destiny, demonstrating the power of citizen activism to change history,” Kennedy continued. “By bringing together women of all religions, ethnic groups and walks of life,  to stand up, sit in, and speak out against violence and in favor of peace, reconciliation and progress, they played a crucial role in restoring democracy to their war-torn country.  The election of the first woman head of state in Africa – President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – is due in no small part to these courageous women. They have shown the world the power of women’s voices united for peace, inspired citizens around the world, and empowered women to seek political change.”

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage 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 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 presented in May in celebration of President Kennedy’s May 29th birthday. 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.
Sheila Bair, Chair, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Bair has been called a “lone voice in the wilderness” for her early warnings about the subprime lending crisis and for her dogged criticism of both Wall Street’s and the government’s management of the subsequent financial meltdown.  More than any other government official, she has pushed for direct assistance to distressed homeowners as part of the overall effort to stabilize the global financial system, a move resisted by many leaders in both the public and the private sector.  Sheila C. Bair was sworn in as the 19th Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) on June 26, 2006, and is currently serving a five-year term.

Brooksley Born, Former Chair, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
In 1998, as chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born unsuccessfully tried to bring over-the-counter derivatives under the regulatory control of the CFTC.  She warned that unregulated financial contracts, such as credit default swaps, could pose grave dangers to our economy. The government’s failure to regulate such financial deals has been widely criticized as one of the causes of the current financial crisis.

The Peace Activists of Liberia
Leymah Gbowee
 will accept the Profile in Courage Award on behalf of the women of Liberia.  After watching her native Liberia devolve into a decade-long civil war in which violence, rape, and murder became part of daily life, Gbowee brought together several dozen women to pray for peace. That effort launched a movement of ordinary Christian and Muslim women who rose up together to help put an end to Liberia’s civil war.  Their remarkable struggle for peace eventually paved the way for the election of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the presidency of Liberia – the first democratic election of a woman anywhere in Africa.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts  was presented the 2009 Profile in Courage Award earlier this month by his niece Caroline Kennedy during a star-studded celebration of the Senator’s 77th birthday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Kennedy, who is nominated every year for the award that celebrates his brother’s legacy, was not eligible for the honor while he served on the Profile in Courage Award selection committee. This year, members of the bipartisan award committee were unanimous in their decision to present Senator Kennedy with the award.

Click here for more information about the Profile in Courage Award and past recipients.

This year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage were selected by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Al Hunt, Washington managing editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 14-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; Elaine Jones, former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; 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.

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. 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.  For more information about the Profile in Courage Award and the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, visit www.jfklibrary.org.