For Immediate Release: March 16, 2010
Boston MA – The four members of California’s legislative leadership who in 2009 led a bi-partisan effort in a bid to close the state’s devastating budget deficit have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™.
Dave Cogdill, California State Senator and former Senate Republican Leader; Mike Villines, California State Assembly Member and former Assembly Republican Leader; Darrell Steinberg, California State Senator and Democratic Senate President pro Tem; and Karen Bass, California State Assembly Member, and former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, were chosen in recognition of the political courage each demonstrated in standing up to the extraordinary constituent and party pressure they faced while working with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to address California’s severe financial crisis.
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 24.
“Faced with the most difficult choices and a budget crisis of unprecedented magnitude, these legislative leaders had the courage to negotiate a compromise that they felt was in the public’s best interest,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “They did so knowing they would suffer the wrath of their constituents, powerful interest groups, and their own party members. The members of the Profile in Courage Award Committee chose to herald this story of political courage and bi-partisan compromise with the hope that it will inspire other elected officials facing similar challenges to stand up with courage, to cross party lines, and to do whatever is necessary to better serve the public interest.”
In February 2009, amid one of the worst budget crises in California’s history, an imploding economy, and potentially catastrophic partisan deadlock, the state’s Republican and Democratic party leaders came together to address the financial emergency. After weeks of grueling negotiation, the legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger reached an agreement on a comprehensive deal to close most of a $42 billion shortfall, putting an end to years of government inaction and sidestepping of the difficult decisions necessary to address California’s increasingly dire fiscal crisis. The deal was objectionable to almost everyone; it contained tax increases, which the Republicans had long pledged to oppose, and draconian spending cuts, which brought intense criticism to the Democrats. The two Republicans were ousted from their party leadership positions over the agreement. Voters defeated the budget referendum in May 2009. In June and July, the state of California began issuing high-interest IOUs to vendors in lieu of payment. In 2010, California’s budget problems go largely unresolved. The Pew Center on the States has ranked California dead last among the 50 states on fiscal health.
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.
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, executive Washington editor of Bloomberg News, chairs the 13-member Profile in Courage Award Committee. Committee members are U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi); Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Kenneth R. Feinberg, Chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; 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., former U.S. Senator (D-Massachusetts) and Chairman Emeritus of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Shari Redstone, President, National Amusements, Inc; John Seigenthaler, founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University; David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine); and Patricia M. Wald, former judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. David McKean, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. McKean is the former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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.