North Carolina School Board Member and Egyptian Activist Honored for Political Courage

For Immediate Release: March 22, 2011 
Further information: Rachel Day (617) 514-1662,

Boston MA – Elizabeth Redenbaugh, a New Hanover County, North Carolina School Board member who stood up against what she perceived as racial segregation in school redistricting plans, and Wael Ghonim and the people of Egypt, whose courageous demand for democratic reform inspired similar movements across the Middle East, have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™. 

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 23. 

“From a small county school district in North Carolina to Tahrir Square in Cairo, this year’s Profile in Courage honorees show us the importance of individual acts of conscience,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “Elizabeth Redenbaugh boldly challenged the citizens of her community to preserve quality public education for all of New Hanover County’s children regardless of race. By coming together in pursuit of democratic freedom, Wael Ghonim and his fellow Egyptians have empowered a new generation of citizen activists all over the world. Win or lose, Wael Ghonim and Elizabeth Redenbaugh stood up when it counted.” 

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. 

Elizabeth Redenbaugh, School Board Member, New Hanover County, North Carolina 
Elizabeth Redenbaugh, first elected to the New Hanover County school board in 2008, stood in opposition to her Republican colleagues against a redistricting plan that she feared would lead to socioeconomic and racial segregation of the county’s middle schools. Redenbaugh’s courageous dissent came amid a passionate and protracted community debate. The controversial redistricting measure ultimately passed by a four to three vote of the school board; Redenbaugh subsequently opposed the board’s decision to certify to state authorities that the county had not increased segregation of schools on the basis of race or socioeconomic status. 

Wael Ghonim and the People of Egypt 
Wael Ghonim will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in the name of the people of Egypt. Ghonim, a marketing executive for Google, anonymously launched a Facebook page that played a key role in organizing the protests that would eventually result in the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. As the protests grew in size and intensity, Ghonim was arrested and held captive for 12 days by Egyptian security forces. His emotional appearance on Egyptian television shortly after his release further galvanized the protest movement. But he insisted that the democracy movement in Egypt was greater than any one individual. “I’m not a hero,” he said. “The heroes, they’re the ones who were in the street, who took part in the demonstrations, sacrificed their lives, were beaten, arrested and exposed to danger.” 

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. Albert R. 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); U.S. Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards (D-Maryland); Kenneth R. Feinberg, Chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-South Carolina); 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; Martha Minow, Dean and Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; 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. Tom McNaught, executive director of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the 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.