Dean Koldenhoven, former mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois, was honored for his political courage in speaking out against religious discrimination and calling for tolerance within his community.
In May 2000, three years into his term, Mayor Koldenhoven confronted a crisis of intolerance in Palos Heights when plans to open a mosque in the Chicago suburb upset many residents and exploded into controversy within the town. Mayor Koldenhoven supported the sale of a vacant Christian church to the Al Salam Mosque Foundation, knowing it would be a test of his leadership. When an antagonistic city council failed to deter the sale, the council offered the Foundation a $200,000 buy-out to abandon its plans. To the ire of his colleagues and constituents, Mayor Koldenhoven vetoed the payoff, calling it an embarrassment and an insult to the Muslim community. “Government has no place in this issue,” he told city council members.
The mayor’s opposition drew national attention, resulting in a fierce public backlash against the middle-class community of 12,000. Residents blamed the mayor for bringing unwanted attention to the town and damaging its reputation. Ultimately, the Al Salam Mosque Foundation decided against moving to Palos Heights, and the town voted against purchasing the property.
Dean Koldenhoven lost his bid for re-election; many believed his defeat was due to the controversy surrounding his defense of religious freedom and tolerance.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Receives Profile in Courage Award
Former Illinois Mayor Dean Koldenhoven also Honored by JFK Library
Special Profile in Courage Award Honors Public Servants Responding to 9/11
Boston, MA, May 6, 2002 – United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has allowed neither controversy nor criticism to deter him from his commitment to shaping a world response to international terrorism, negotiating peaceful settlements to international and regional conflicts, and organizing an international campaign to combat the global AIDS epidemic, was presented the 2002 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at a ceremony today at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.
Joining Secretary-General Annan on the stage was Dean Koldenhoven, the one-term mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois, who was also awarded the 2002 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for speaking out against bigotry and religious intolerance toward an Islamic community that had hoped to convert a local church into a mosque.
A special and unprecedented Profile in Courage Award for Public Service was awarded to the thousands of selfless public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the tragic events of September 11. Several representatives of America’s public servants were present at the Kennedy Library to accept the award on behalf of their colleagues.
Honoring this year’s recipients were Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
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 he or she believes is the right course of action. 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. This year's award was the 13th Profile in Courage Award.
Created by the Kennedy Library Foundation in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service, the award is presented on or near May 29, in celebration of President Kennedy's birthday. Described by one recipient as the “Nobel in Government,” the Profile in Courage Award is accompanied by a sterling silver lantern representing a beacon of hope. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg, Inc. and crafted by Tiffany & Co.
“President Kennedy felt his greatest admiration for those in politics who had the courage to make decisions of conscience without fear of the consequences,” said Caroline Kennedy. “It is this unique kind of courage for which we honor Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Dean Koldenhoven.
“The events of September 11 have forever changed the way most Americans see their elected officials and public servants,” Kennedy continued. “We have all heard of thousands of individual acts of extraordinary courage and selfless public service. These have given new meaning to the words ‘ask what you can do for your country,’ and ennobled us all.”
In selecting a recipient, the Profile in Courage Award Committee considers elected officials who have demonstrated the kind of political courage described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Kennedy wrote:
“The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people – faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment – faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor and ultimately recognize right.”
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Mayor Dean Koldenhoven, and America’s public servants were chosen as recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage and public service by the eleven-member Profile in Courage Award Committee chaired by John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Center. Committee members are David Burke, former president of CBS News; Thad Cochran, U.S. senator from Mississippi; 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; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Edward M. Kennedy, U.S. senator from Massachusetts; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., chairman of the board of directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; David McCullough, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author; and Olympia Snowe, U.S. senator from Maine. John Shattuck, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation, staffs the Committee. Mr. Shattuck is former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor and former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan is the U.N.’s seventh secretary-general, and the first to be elected from the ranks of United Nations staff. Born on April 8, 1938, in Kumasi, Ghana, he became U.N. Secretary-General on January 1, 1997. On June 29, 2001, acting on a recommendation by the Security Council, the General Assembly appointed him by acclamation to a second term of office, beginning January 1, 2002, and ending on December 31, 2006.
Following the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, that brought nations to war and created an extremely volatile global political landscape, Kofi Annan led the United Nations in bringing together diverse countries and political forces to combat terrorism, rebuild a nation and broker peace internationally. In doing so, he risked his standing with world leaders and demonstrated great political courage, diplomatic skill and organizational expertise. He overcame resistance by the U.S. to a U.N. role in Afghanistan and forged the first broad international consensus and strategy to address both the effects and root causes of terrorism.
Without Annan’s courageous and skillful leadership of the world organization during this time of grave crisis, U.S. efforts to respond to terrorism could have been severely undercut by U.N.- member states.
Kofi Annan is also a courageous peacemaker. He has confronted aggressors and cajoled world powers in his tireless efforts to advance the cause of peace and end the world’s most brutal conflicts in the Balkans, Central Africa, East Timor, Burundi, Sierra Leone and other war-torn places.
In addition, Annan has been courageous in his leadership of the world organization on human rights, conflict prevention and U.N. reform. He has challenged member states to live up to international standards. Notably, he took responsibility for international peacekeeping failures in Bosnia and Rwanda in order to assure those failures not be repeated.
At the risk of agitating member nations, Secretary-General Annan has also made it his personal priority to form a global alliance to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At a time when estimates bring the number of infected to as high as 40 million worldwide, Annan has challenged governments, the private sector and other non-government organizations to join forces in the battle against this global disease. By calling for a global campaign against AIDS, and specifically pressing the major members of the U.N. to make contributions far beyond what they were contemplating, Annan put his leadership on the line with member nations.
Annan joined the United Nations system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization in Geneva. In subsequent positions he served around the world, including assignments in Ethiopia, Egypt, Switzerland, Bosnia, Herzegovina and New York. He first gained international attention during the Persian Gulf War when he negotiated the release of more than 900 U.N. staff in Iraq.
Annan’s father was a provincial governor in Ghana and a Fante tribal chief. Annan studied at Kumasi’s University of Science and Technology and completed his undergraduate work in Economics at Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1961. He continued his studies in Switzerland and, later, as a Sloan Fellow 1971-1972, received a master’s in Management from M.I.T. He is married to Nane Lagergren, a Swedish-born artist and lawyer.
Dean Koldenhoven, Mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois (1997 to 2001)
Also honored with the 2002 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award is Dean Koldenhoven, the one-term Mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois, who condemned religious intolerance toward an Islamic community that had hoped to convert a local and vacant Christian church into a mosque.
In May 2000, plans to open a mosque in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights, Illinois, upset many residents. Some city council members even considered derailing the plan by condemning the property the mosque wanted to purchase. In response to the racially tinged comments of people opposed to the mosque moving into the building, Mayor Koldenhoven said, “It hurts me. Here we are, coming up on Memorial Day. People fought and died for these freedoms; we talk about these freedoms. But then some people decide they’re not freedoms for everyone.”
As the sale progressed and the Al Salam Mosque Foundation sought zoning permits, council members suddenly argued that the city needed the property for recreational purposes, even though the council had rejected the space two years earlier for being too small. Now, these council members claimed the city would indeed put the former church property, which was across the street from an existing recreational center, to use as a gymnasium.
At a council meeting, representatives of the Al Salam Mosque Foundation were subjected to insensitive questioning and derogatory comments from some aldermen and residents. Some council members questioned the “upside down” schedule of Muslim prayer. One resident commented that the Muslim group should “convert to Christianity” or “go back to your own countries.” Public council meetings turned into heated battles overwrought with discriminatory religious and racial discourse.
Because the property was already under contract, the alderwoman in whose district the former church was located tried to foil the sale by condemning the church and blocking the issuance of the necessary licenses. Eventually, when her efforts failed, the council proposed a $200,000 pay-off to get the group to abandon its plans to purchase the property so that the city could buy it. A questionable act of fiscal judgment, as one reporter wrote, given that “the city budget has a balance of $400,000.” According to the city council members who voted to pay the Al Salam Mosque Foundation, the $200,000 was not a “buyout,” but was intended “to cover legal expenses.”
When the Al Salam Mosque Foundation originally accepted the $200,000 offer, it was criticized by a member of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, who said, “Our religion is not for sale, and our racial background is not for sale.”
Although the city council voted in favor of the payment and the Al Salam Mosque Foundation ultimately accepted it, Mayor Koldenhoven vetoed the offer in July 2000, calling it an “embarrassment” and “insult” to the Muslim community. “Government has no place in this issue,” he stated as he blocked the buyout plan. “I can understand a fear of heights and a fear of flying. But when it is a fear of a person, they need to get over it.”
His vociferous opposition to the city council’s actions drew national attention resulting in a public backlash against the middle class community. One editorial headline read: “Palos Heights Disgraces Itself.” Ultimately, the Al Salam Mosque Foundation abandoned its plans to move to Palos Heights, citing apprehensions about relocating the mosque to a community where it was not wanted. In November 2000, the Palo Heights residents voted against purchasing the church property.
In what many believe was the result of his decision of conscience to do what he thought was right for the community, Koldenhoven was defeated in his bid for reelection on April 3, 2001.
Before he was elected mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois in April, 1997, Koldenhoven had served as a Republican precinct captain, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and zoning commissioner. A member of Local 21 Bricklayers since May 1954, Koldenhoven currently is employed as a brick salesman for Tri-State Brick Company.
He is married to Ruth Koldenhoven and has four children and ten grandchildren.
Public Servants of America
A special and unprecedented John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for Public Service was also awarded today to the thousands of selfless public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the tragic events of September 11. In defining public servants, the Profile in Courage Award Committee included all private citizens who, at a time of grave challenge to their country, acted courageously to save the lives of others.
“The heartbreaking events of September 11 brought to our families, to our communities, and to our nation overwhelming loss,” said Caroline Kennedy, in presenting the special award. “But in those terrible moments thousands of ordinary men and women put their own lives on the line in order that others might be spared, making real the face of courage and inspiring a new generation to want to serve others.
“The extraordinary bravery of our public servants – firefighters, police, medical teams, and our elected officials – saved thousands of lives,” Kennedy continued. “These men and women put their lives on the line, as they do every day, and a new generation recognized that there are no greater heroes than those who serve others. We honor too all those civilians who demonstrated the most extraordinary bravery in New York, at the Pentagon, and in the sky. They became public servants in the very best sense of the word, saving each other, protecting the rest of us, and giving their lives for their country.
“They have been joined by the men and women of our armed forces who make courage their career, who face danger half-way around the world because they believe freedom is worth dying to defend,” said Kennedy.
During the ceremony, Caroline Kennedy presented the sterling silver lantern representing a beacon of hope to four individuals invited by the Kennedy Library Foundation to represent all of America’s public servants.
“These four representatives do not consider themselves heroes,” Kennedy said. “But, they, as representatives of the thousands of public servants and civilians who pulled together on September 11, have changed the way we all think of public service. And, for this, we are all grateful.”
Those accepting the Profile in Courage Award’s silver lantern on behalf of all American public servants were New York Police Department (NYPD) Officer Michael Gerbasi; Chief Brian O’Flaherty of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY); U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Marilyn Wills; and Firefighter John (Jack) Dewan from the Brookline Fire Department.
New York Police Department Officer Michael Gerbasi was a member of the NYPD a little more than three years when his Manhattan Precinct 1 Police Department rushed to the scene of the World Trade Center twin towers. While working to save others, Officer Gerbasi suffered a severe injury, nearly losing his arm. After his recovery, Officer Gerbasi did not hesitate to return to the New York Police Department where he continues to serve.
Chief Brian O’Flaherty has been a public servant for nearly four decades working for the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). On September 11, he and his Engine 54, 9th Battalion team responded to the scene along with two other chiefs who were not on duty that day. Chief O’Flaherty and his comrades were in the ground floor of the South Tower when it collapsed upon them. They struggled to get the civilians and others around them out trying to reach the North Tower command post. Chief O’Flaherty’s shoulders were crushed, and his comrades, Chiefs Lawrence Stack and Raymond Downey, helped him toward an opening to escape the collapsed tower. Chief O’Flaherty made it through just as the second tower collapsed. Tragically, his selfless colleagues, Chiefs Stack and Downey, lost their lives.
U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Marilyn Wills was presented both the Soldiers’ Medal and the Purple Heart for her heroism above and beyond the call of duty on September 11. After a hijacked airline with 300,000 pounds of jet fuel was used by international terrorists as a weapon to attack the Pentagon, military and civilian personnel alike were left in a state of shock. Without regard for her own life, Lt. Col. Wills aided in the rescue effort by leading a group that was trapped in an inner conference room through the smoke and falling debris to a window. Once there, she helped to lower all individuals out of the second story window and then risked her life by remaining at the window. She used her voice to direct more casualties to the escape route before being ordered to evacuate.
Firefighter John (Jack) Dewan from the Brookline Fire Department is part of a family that has served the city of Boston through its fire and police departments since 1900. His grandfather, father, two uncles, and two brothers have all served the public in this capacity of public safety. His brother, Gerard, was the first and only family member to move from the Boston area to join the New York Fire Department more than five years ago. Gerard Dewan was a member of Ladder 3 of the FDNY. On September 11, Ladder 3 responded to the scene with ten men – two officers and eight firemen. All ten were killed in the North Tower. He is grateful for the Library's tribute to his brother and to all of America’s public servants.
Past Profile in Courage Award Recipients
Last year’s recipient was former U.S. President Gerald Ford, who presided over the country’s recovery from what he called “our long national nightmare” and who made a controversial decision of conscience to pardon former President Richard M. Nixon. Legendary civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) received an unprecedented special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of a career marked by extraordinary courage, leadership, and commitment to universal human rights. The presentation of a Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement was unprecedented.
Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama; former U.S. Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia; former Governor of Connecticut Lowell Weicker, Jr.; former Governor of New Jersey James Florio; U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas; former U.S. Congressman Michael Synar of Oklahoma; former Calhoun County, Georgia School Superintendent Corkin Cherubini; Circuit Court Judge of Montgomery County, Alabama Charles Price; Garfield County, Montana Attorney Nickolas Murnion; co-recipients U.S. Senators John McCain of Arizona and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; and California State Senator Hilda Solis.
In December 1998, a special John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award was presented to the Irish Peacemakers – eight political leaders of Northern Ireland [John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, John Alderdice, David Ervine, Monica McWilliams, Gary McMichael, and Malachi Curran] and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the American chairman of the peace talks – in recognition of the extraordinary political courage they demonstrated in negotiating the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement. The presentation of the Profile in Courage Award to a non-American was unprecedented.
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 John F. 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.
For more information on the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, visit the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum web page at jfklibrary.org.
Tom McNaught (617) 514-1662
Caroline, Senator Kennedy, members of the Kennedy family, trustees, members of the selection committee, and friends, thank you very much for bestowing on me the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. And what an honor to share this event with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, an exemplary leader and servant to the world, and also with the public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
I stand in awe of this whole event! When the phone call came to our home, my wife said it was Caroline Kennedy. I wondered who would have the same name as “THE" Caroline. When she identified herself and told me I was the recipient of the JFK Profile in Courage Award, I interrupted her and said, you mean "THE" Caroline Kennedy? She laughed and said, “Yes, that Caroline Kennedy," and added that she loved making these kind of phone calls. I was stunned, and to my wife's surprise, speechless—which was a good thing because I couldn't talk about it for days until they could locate Mr. Annan to tell him that he too was a recipient of the JFK Award. When the press later asked me, "Well, where was he?” I said, “I guess he’s busy attending to world business." – something he does so well!
This morning, I'm honored to be here due to a time when I wasn't speechless but spoke out against religious intolerance, an ideal close to John F. Kennedy's heart. I remember when he announced his candidacy for the presidency. One of the remarks I heard against him was that he was Catholic and would be a puppet of the Pope. Religious intolerance is nothing new. When he was warned not to bring up the religious issue, he answered, "Nobody asked me if I was Catholic when I joined the U.S. Navy. Nobody asked my brother if he was a Catholic or Protestant before he climbed into an American bomber plane to fly his last mission." I admired him for his ability to step forward in courage and confront the issues head on.
The old story of religious intolerance reared its ugly head in my city. When the Al Salam Mosque Foundation came to our City of Palos Heights to purchase a church that was for sale, I thought that it was and should have been a simple real estate transaction that would be reported in the local newspaper. Instead it took on national and international attention because many residents spoke against it at various city council meetings.
After that, five of the eight aldermen saw a "sudden" need to purchase the church for the city's recreation department—even though two years earlier they let the proposal to buy the church die in committee, and after a three-month study yielded NO motions to buy the church.
The city council then moved to authorize the city attorney to offer the Al Salam Mosque Foundation $200,000 to cover its expenses and allow the city to purchase the church. I immediately spoke out against such an offer and wrote a letter of apology to the people of the Islamic community .I called it an embarrassment and an insult to them and encouraged them to proceed with the purchase of the church.
At the city’s next regularly scheduled meeting I delivered my veto message pointing out that "the government had NO place in this matter,” not to mention that it was not fiscally responsible. The council did not override my veto. But the foundation chose not to proceed with the purchase.
When reporters asked how I arrived at this decision, I told them, "it was a no-brainer." I learned in grammar school about the First amendment in which the first part of it says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and Jesus' command in the Bible when he says to "love your neighbor". The decision was easy. You don't need to think it over. You know what’s wrong, so you know what is right.
There is much more to tell but ultimately, I was voted out of office.
I remember what JFK said to the nation after the confrontation with the governor of Alabama over court-ordered desegregation. He said, " We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and it is as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities; whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated."
He was a President who stood the test and made his mark in history for civil rights. And his message needs to be heard today.
During this controversy, the Federal Justice Department called on me to offer its services to start a dialogue group of Muslims and non-Muslims. I am sure that Senator Kennedy would be glad to hear that this is one time that a government agency offered its services without any strings attached. There were no penalties if we refused. Naturally the community thought that I brought the "Feds" in to further complicate this controversy. The good news is, this dialogue group is still meeting on a monthly basis at a college that is located in our city. Dialogue is important to relieve the fears that we have of each other for whatever reasons we have. Some churches in our city are also having study groups to better know our Muslim neighbors, especially the young people's groups. My thanks to the Justice Department for initiating this dialogue group in our city.
Besides all my immediate family and nine of my ten grandchildren present here today, along with some close friends, there is a special friend here also. He is Father Edward Cronin, of the St. A1exander's Catholic Church in Palos Heights. Father Cronin supported me throughout the whole Mosque/Church controversy. I heard from his parishioners that he gave some very eloquent homilies on the community’s behavior. He met with me and members of the Muslim community to welcome them into our city. He was very courageous on his beliefs. He became a family friend at a very difficult time in my life. And that time was when my 35-year-old son, Don, died of cancer at the very height of the controversy. This Award has special meaning for Don's memory too. As Caroline has said, "after people die, they really do live on through those who love them."
Caroline, Senator, and Kennedy family members, it is evident by your involvement in this Award that your love for John F. Kennedy carries on his memory and his courage.
I want to thank all of my family and close friends for their support throughout this controversy.
I feel deeply honored and humbled to accept this award, and I thank you.
Remarks by Dean Koldenhoven, former Mayor, Palos Heights, Illinois, on receiving the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, May 6, 2002.
Thank you John [Seigenthaler] for that very generous introduction. John is a dear friend to all the members of the Kennedy family, and a respected journalist in his own right, and it’s a privilege to be here with him today.
This year the Profile in Courage Award Committee recognized that the events of September 11th have awakened a new and deeper appreciation for the ideals of public service.
Today we honor two men who, in their quiet determined way, lived up to those ideals, despite the risks to their own positions of authority. Their example encourages people everywhere to reach for the best in themselves, and not succumb to fear and hate.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan responded decisively to the tragedy of September 11th and America will be forever grateful for his courageous leadership. In the days following the terrorist attack, he helped to build international support against terrorism. His quiet work behind the scenes convinced skeptical international leaders that a strong stand must be taken for the sake of all nations.
Under his able leadership, the United Nations is now working to address the great humanitarian needs of the Afghan people and to help build an effective, representative, and strong Afghan government. For his unwavering support in the war against terrorism, all Americans salute him.
The Secretary-General has also brought to the forefront of concern the international health care crisis caused by AIDS. In Africa and throughout the developing world, he has dared to criticize the veil of secrecy behind which the deadly disease has so often been hidden. He has succeeded in focusing worldwide attention on the epidemic and has issued a global “Call to Action.” He has encouraged other nations to make an unprecedented commitment to eliminating the disease. His tireless work and personal leadership are braking down barriers and saving of many lives.
Whether it is fighting AIDS in Africa, genocide in Kosovo, or terrorism around the world, the Secretary General, has risked the wrath of world powers and many other countries to do what he believes is right. He has made the United Nations a champion of human rights and he has always worked for peace.
In his address at American University in 1963, President Kennedy said, “Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation.” In Secretary-General Kofi Annan, we have a dynamic Profile in Courage who is meeting the challenge of this generation.
Mayor Dean Koldenhoven is another example of public service at its finest. Today we recognize him for his principled stand against religious intolerance. It cost him a second term in office, but in braving a firestorm of fear and prejudice, he left behind a magnificent legacy.
In May of 2000, local members of the Islamic community in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights sought to purchase a vacant church and made plans to turn it into a mosque and school for members of their faith. Hearing of the plans local residents, and some members of the City Council, fought against it. The claim was made that the land was needed for a recreation center, although it had stood vacant for two years and been deemed too small for that purpose in the past. At City Council meetings, an ugly undercurrent of intolerance surfaced, as derogatory comments against Muslims were made by residents and Council members alike. Officials tried to block the licenses for the needed renovations. When that tactic failed, the Council proposed a two hundred thousand dollar payoff if the Islamic community would give up its plans for the property.
Through all the turmoil Mayor Koldenhoven was steadfast against such bigotry. He called on the best instincts in his constituents and reminded them of the fundamental rights on which this nation was built. “It hurts me,” he said at the time. “Here we are, coming up on Memorial Day. People fought and died for these freedoms; we talk about them, but then some people decide they’re not freedoms for everyone.” He vetoed the monetary payoff as an “insult” to the Muslim community. In the end, the Muslim community chose to build their Mosque elsewhere, and the Mayor was defeated for reelection.
There was a time in our own city of Boston when there were signs in the windows offering jobs, but with the warning that “No Irish Need Apply.” In 1960, many people said that a member of the Catholic faith should not be President of the United States or live in The White House. Today, when we thought my brother’s election had put so much religious prejudice to rest, we hear again the dark rumblings of some who say members of the Islamic faith cannot be good Americans and should not live and worship in our neighborhoods. Again today, we find we must struggle to rise above intolerance and remember our historic values.
Mayor Koldenhoven held firm to his principles with unwavering resolve and honored our history, his own deep faith and our Bill of Rights. This man of such fundamental decency has been a member of the bricklaying profession all his life. He has built many strong walls. But as he showed us, the dangerous walls of religious intolerance between our fellow citizens are walls that must be torn down. He is truly a Profile in Courage.
It is now my privilege to introduce Caroline, who continues to inspire all of us with her leadership here at the Library. I know her parents would be especially proud of the skillful work and dedication she brings to the Profile in Courage Award each year. This year she has added a new book to that effort, “Profiles in Courage for Our Time,” which has been edited and compiled by Caroline to tell the heroic stories of the winners of this Award since it was first established in 1989. As these stories make clear, not all of our heroes are in the distant past. She will speak about our most current heroes – the men and women who made such extraordinary sacrifices in our time of national crisis and whose actions touched us all so deeply. It’s my honor to introduce her now – Caroline Kennedy.
Remarks delivered by Senator Edward M. Kennedy at the 2002 Profile in Courage Award Ceremony, May 6, 2002.