A series of voting irregularities in several major Ohio counties that use electronic voting systems led newly elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order that paper ballots be provided to any voter who requested one during the state’s March 2008 presidential primary. Furthermore, after a study of the state’s new electronic voting systems – just two years old and representing millions in public investment – found that the systems made by several major voting machine manufacturers could be compromised, Brunner called for the replacement of all of the state’s electronic voting systems with paper ballots and optical scan technology before the November 2008 presidential election. Brunner’s proposal brought pointed and persistent criticism from partisans around the state; opponents of the move objected to the cost and questioned the necessity of returning to paper ballots. For her political courage and her commitment to ensuring the enfranchisement of every Ohio citizen, Jennifer Brunner is honored with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.
Election Integrity Spotlighted at JFK Profile in Courage Awards
California and Ohio Secretaries of State Join Former Governor of Mississippi as Honorees
Boston MA, May 12, 2008 – Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California, and Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio, were presented the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™ today by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy in recognition of their courageous leadership in challenging the reliability of their respective states’ electronic voting systems in a bid to ensure the integrity of every citizen’s vote.
Former Mississippi Governor William Winter was also honored as a profile in courage for his extraordinary leadership in championing educational opportunity and racial equality for generations of Mississippi citizens.
“With our nation immersed in the process of electing the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting system is of the utmost importance to our democracy,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership as they work to ensure the electorate is provided with a full and accurate count of the vote. Our political system depends on voter trust. Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage.”
“Governor William Winter gives testimony to President Kennedy’s belief that politics can truly be a noble profession,” Kennedy continued. “His lifetime of public service, both to his country and his beloved state of Mississippi, has been distinguished by its devotion to equality and justice. His life-long dedication to ensuring equal opportunities in our nation’s educational system embodies what it means to be a profile in courage.”
“Secretary of State Debra Bowen of California and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner of Ohio understand the vital importance of the right to vote,” said Senator Edward M. Kennedy. “Facing uncertainty, voting irregularities and a disenchanted electorate, both of these officials stepped up to the plate, overcame intense resistance, and insisted on reform in electronic voting to prevent mistakes in the voting process, and make sure that all votes are promptly received and counted.”
“We commend the courageous leadership of Governor Winter on racial reconciliation and school reform in Mississippi,” continued Senator Kennedy. “That was no easy challenge in his state at the time, and he was defeated in his first two campaigns for governor. But he persisted, was elected Governor in 1979, as a true integrationist. He used his time in office brilliantly to pass a historic bill on equal education for all school children in the state, half of whom were African American.”
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.
Secretary of State, California
After a $450 million investment by California counties in electronic voting systems aimed at modernizing elections, newly elected Secretary of State Debra Bowen ordered an independent review of the new voting technologies to ensure they adequately protected the integrity of the vote. When the study revealed troubling flaws in the systems, Bowen strictly limited the use of direct-recording electronic voting machines, and imposed significant security and auditing requirements on systems to be used in California’s February 5 presidential primary election. Bowen’s decision was met with resistance by voting system vendors, who criticized the study’s design, and many county elections officials, who contended the switch to paper balloting would result in massive delays in the reporting of election results.
Secretary of State, Ohio
A series of voting irregularities in several major Ohio counties that use electronic voting systems led newly elected Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to order that paper ballots be provided to any voter who requested one during the state’s March 2008 presidential primary. Furthermore, after a study of the state’s new electronic voting systems – just two years old and representing millions in public investment – found that the systems made by several major voting machine manufacturers could be compromised, Brunner called for the replacement of all of the state’s electronic voting systems with paper ballots and optical scan technology before the November 2008 presidential election. Brunner’s proposal brought pointed and persistent criticism from partisans around the state; opponents of the move objected to the cost and questioned the necessity of returning to paper ballots.
Former Governor, Mississippi
As Governor of Mississippi in the early 1980’s, William Winter called the state legislature into special session to pass a landmark education reform proposal aimed at bringing uniform quality and racial tolerance to public education in Mississippi. Winter's Education Reform Act of 1982 was among the most significant pieces of legislation of its kind ever passed; among other reforms, it mandated statewide public kindergarten, compulsory school attendance, higher standards for teacher and student performance, and the creation of a lay state board of education. But the measure was hotly contested, and had been twice defeated before Winter led its passage just before Christmas, 1982. Less than two years later, Winter ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate. However, he continued to serve as a champion of public education, saying “the right to receive an adequate education is one of the most basic civil rights of all.” In 1997, Winter was appointed to President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race, and in 2005, he helped to lead Gulf Coast recovery efforts following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
In selecting a recipient, the Profile in Courage Award Committee considers public servants 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:
In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience – the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men – each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient – they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.
Bowen, Brunner and Winter were chosen as the recipients of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s prestigious award for political courage by a distinguished bipartisan committee of national, political, and community leaders. Al Hunt, Washington Executive 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, director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund; Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts); 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.
Past recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award are Houston Mayor Bill White; Superintendent of Schools for St. Bernard Parish, Doris Voitier; former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; U.S. Representative John Murtha; Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko; United States Army Sergeant Joseph Darby; Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; former Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff; Afghan physician and human rights activist Dr. Sima Samar; former North Carolina State Representative Cindy Watson; former Oklahoma State Senator Paul Muegge; former Georgia Governor Roy Barnes; former South Carolina Governor David Beasley; former Georgia State Representative Dan Ponder, Jr.; United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; former Palos Heights, Illinois, Mayor Dean Koldenhoven; former U.S. President Gerald Ford; former California State Senator Hilda Solis; U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona; U.S. Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin; Garfield County, Montana Attorney Nickolas Murnion; the Peacemakers of Northern Ireland who negotiated the historic Good Friday Peace Agreement; Circuit Court Judge of Montgomery County, Alabama Charles Price; former Calhoun County, Georgia School Superintendent Corkin Cherubini; former U.S. Congressman Michael Synar of Oklahoma; U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas; former New Jersey Governor James Florio; former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, Jr.; former U.S. Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia; and former U.S. Congressman Carl Elliott, Sr. of Alabama.
A Special Profile in Courage Award was presented to America’s public servants who demonstrated extraordinary courage and heroism in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. A Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement has also been presented to U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
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.
Brent Carney (617) 514-1662
Members of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Committee; U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy; Caroline Kennedy and members of the Kennedy family; Secretary of State Bowen; Governor Winter; Laura Schapiro; members of my family; dear friends and fellow Ohioans; distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen:
Thank you. I am honored and humbled to receive this significant and meaningful award today. It is with gratefulness that I stand before you, trying to take in the austerity of this occasion—trying to comprehend that from difficult work often filled with emotionally charged controversy and strife, can emerge honor and dignity in the attempt to move forward the human causes of fairness, equality and respect.
I am quietly amazed that the simplicity of my work—ensuring the right to vote in a system that is free, fair, open and honest—is recognized as being among those whose legacies in courage reach beyond their time and well beyond their lives.
It is significant that this award is one so wholeheartedly supported by the family of President John F. Kennedy. For it is in a family that one gains support, values and the inspiration to go beyond that family and see the needs of others in the world and to public service.
As in many endeavors in life, it is difficult for one person to go it alone. I am blessed to have a wonderful and supportive family, including my husband, Rick, who is my soul mate and who, in encouraging me to follow my convictions, has been a steady source of strength and advice with each step taken. My grown children—Kate, Laura and John—have sacrificed much in the endeavor of public service, often not being able to get through to their mom on the first try, and during the campaign, putting on hold jobs and school to help win the election.
I am blessed with some of the most talented and hard working staff in Ohio’s state government and by the friendship and support shown to me today by the many other family members and friends here to share in this ceremony. All of you have my profound thanks and deepest respect.
I began my public service twenty-five years ago working as an entry-level attorney in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office. I liked helping people and got a taste of making a difference when later in that office I worked on legislative changes to Ohio’s election laws. As the years progressed and I saw legislatures change, new agendas forged, and wholesale changes in my state’s political and economic culture, I realized that making a difference is more than a young person’s dream of leaving your mark.
Since being elected to public office, first as a judge and now as Ohio’s Secretary of State, I have come to humbly realize that making a difference is simply this: showing compassion in what you do, working to alleviate suffering, and championing the causes of fairness, equality and respect among citizens—and in doing this, never giving up.
The weekend before I learned of this award, I had been searching the literature for some uplifting thoughts that would help my staff in its resolve to keep working for improvements to Ohio’s elections and voting systems. At the time we were experiencing a barrage of criticism instigated by partisans and election officials who disagreed with our conclusions and approaches.
In my search I came across a 1991 book given to me by my sister, Andrea, edited by Peter Beard called, Longing for Darkness. The book contains writings and other mementos from the life of Kamante, the well-loved servant of writer Isak Dinesen, who wrote the book, Out of Africa. The last page of Kamante’s book is a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy to Kamante written in her own handwriting and near the time that Dinesen died in 1962. In that letter she spoke to Kamante of the young people of the 1960's who were fighting for civil rights. She said, "They had allies in an earlier time, who knew that courage was endurance as well as abandon."
I then understood that endurance is the mortar that holds together the bricks of courage. It also illustrated that those who hold elected office must endeavor with endurance to better the lives of the people they serve, even if it can only be for the time they are in office. I have come to learn that this is enough to make a difference.
I come from the State of Ohio, whose history is mired in political traditions and machinations with a claim of 8 of the nation’s 43 presidents. Since Ohio’s statehood in 1803, many of the state’s citizens have served as presidential cabinet members whose activities have helped shape this country throughout its history. Ohio has been a state that is critical to the direction of the leadership of our country.
In the last presidential election, Ohio supplied the needed electoral votes for our current president’s victory. Many have questioned the efficacy of our last presidential election in Ohio. I simply questioned its fairness of process.
It pained me to see the representation of my state in 2004 with long lines at polling places, accusations of unequal distribution of voting machines in some counties, and certainty by many that Ohio’s election was stolen or tainted. I love my state, and I love my country. Whether or not this characterization of Ohio’s 2004 presidential election is accurate, I see it as my challenge to change Ohio’s elections to instill voter confidence. Voter confidence in Ohio’s elections does not stop with its electorate—I knew from the national interest in my own election in 2006 that what happened in Ohio mattered to the country.
As I traveled Ohio during the campaign, I was often asked questions about the latest voting technology and whether it was secure and could be trusted. I promised to conduct a thorough review of Ohio’s voting systems and undertook that task in my first year in office.
Debra Bowen, my sister Secretary of State in California, had many of the same concerns and began a similar process in her state. Secretary Bowen and I kept in contact in undertaking our studies. I saw the barrage of criticism she endured upon the release of her study’s findings and upon her subsequent decertification of touch-screen voting machines. My staff and I added a dimension to Ohio’s study that would include election officials’ procedures that might mitigate the risks her study identified. I had hoped that our study would yield more encouraging results. It did not.
Despite including election officials in our process, Ohio’s study was met with a combination of stunned reactions and then angry claims of irresponsibility for undermining confidence in Ohio’s elections at a time when my stated goal was to restore and ensure voter confidence. I likened the need to the study to the need for taking a test to see if one has a deadly disease. It’s better to know what you’re dealing with.
During the study, I told election officials that based on the timing of the study’s results, we could not make wholesale changes in voting equipment for Ohio’s March 4 primary election. I told them backup paper ballots would be needed in the 53 counties utilizing the riskiest machines—touchscreen voting machines. I could see their look of dread, and they asked me the question: “Are you going to make us ask voters the question: ‘paper or plastic?’” I asked them what was their preference, and they said, “Please don’t make us ask.”
In President Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, he acknowledged that sometimes courage calls for compromise. I acceded to their wishes, issuing a simple one-page directive on January 2, 2008, that backup paper ballots be printed and made available at polling places in the minimum amount of 10% of the ballots cast in a similar, previous election. I did not make them ask the question of every voter as to their preference for a paper ballot. I continued to push the need for new voting systems in Ohio that utilized optical scan paper ballots, and I continued to meet derision by some and cheers by others.
The furor raised over the simple directive for backup paper ballots resulted in two lawsuits, scoffing criticism from some election officials and editorial boards, and after the election, howls about government waste and unnecessary cost. When the eyes of the country were on Ohio on March 4, the unexpected occurred: bomb threats in 2 counties, flooding in 10 counties preventing access to polling places, ice storms in numerous other counties with resulting power outages, and mis-programmed touchscreen voting machines in one county. Backup paper ballots allowed a record turnout of Ohio voters to vote in an historic presidential primary despite weather calamity, human error and a lack of power to operate voting machines. Some called it a waste—we call it a “best practice” that allows every eligible person to vote, no matter the obstacles.
After the election, criticisms continued because not all paper ballots had been used. I responded using the analogy that the backup paper ballots were like the spare tire we’re so glad we have when stranded on that remote country road with a flat tire on our car.
I continue the fight to move my state to a more secure and reliable system of voting. I will continue the use of backup paper ballots, post-election audits and other security measures to ensure the enfranchisement and confidence of every eligible Ohioan—and to ensure the nation’s confidence in Ohio elections.
Change can be hard, even when it’s necessary and warranted. Leadership toward needed change requires vision. My vision is a simple one of elections that encourage confidence, participation and an informed citizenry who truly supplies the voice for its government toward a world of fairness, equality and respect.
I am grateful to the JFK Library Foundation and to the Kennedy family for recognizing my work and the work of those whose lives are dedicated to public service. I hope that through the work of the foundation many young people will answer the call of public service in furtherance of the human causes that make all our lives better.
I will take this honor back to my state, one so deserving of a change for the better in the eyes of the nation. And I will continue to work tirelessly in these efforts. Thank you again and God bless each and every one of you.
Remarks by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner on receiving the 2008 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, May 12, 2008
Today, we honor three public servants whose courageous leadership has made a difference in the lives of millions of Americans. Debra Bowen, Jennifer Brunner and William Winter are a testament to President Kennedy’s belief that every individual has the power to make a difference for others, and everyone should try.
The presidential election crisis of 2000 put a spotlight on our antiquated election systems, and propelled a sweeping migration to new voting technology. A number of states moved swiftly to adopt electronic voting systems, hoping to restore public confidence in the fairness and accuracy of our elections. But the new systems brought new challenges.
When a comprehensive review of California’s new electronic voting machines revealed that election results could be altered on the new machines, Secretary of State Debra Bowen did not wait for things to go wrong on election night. Instead, she rewrote the rule book on voting machine security, bringing courage and resolve to the challenge of ensuring a fair and accurate vote in California, even if it meant returning to paper ballots. Debra Bowen has never wavered in her political courage and determination to protect every voter’s voice. We are pleased to present her with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.
(Presentation of Lantern to Debra Bowen.)
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner took office after a series of election problems had badly shaken voter confidence in her state. In the face of blistering political opposition, she has made difficult and sometimes controversial decisions in order to restore the integrity and the accuracy of Ohio elections. She has stood her ground with voting machine vendors and political partisans, and has been unwavering in her determination to see that every vote is accurately recorded and counted. For her dauntless commitment to the enfranchisement of every Ohio voter, we are happy to present Jennifer Brunner with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.
(Presentation of Lantern to Jennifer Brunner.)
William Winter has spent a lifetime speaking out for justice in the face of indifference and hatred. For more than 60 years, he has brought opportunity and hope to generations of the impoverished and the disenfranchised. As a young politician, he stood up for racial tolerance at a time when doing so often meant losing your next election. As governor, with remarkable tenacity and spirit, he envisioned and worked for sweeping changes in a public education system that had long turned its back on the children of Mississippi. As a private citizen, he has remained a passionate and compelling voice for the very young and the disadvantaged. His is a lifetime of political courage, and we are honored to present him with the 2008 Profile in Courage Award.
(Presentation of Lantern to William Winter.)
Remarks made by Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, on presenting the 2008 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards, May 12, 2008.
It’s always very moving to be part of the Profile in Courage ceremony. These annual awards are a special tribute to President Kennedy because they honor the high ideals which inspired his own public life. He believed that public service is a noble profession, but that it often demands courage to do the right thing in the face of intense opposition. He understood that America would not be America without courageous officials willing to go against the grain, and he was constantly concerned that moral courage so often seemed absent in public life.
As Mark Twain said, “It is curious – curious – that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.”
I’m sure many of you watched the remarkable recent television series on one of the earliest pioneers of American democracy – John Adams. We can’t help but admire his commitment and dedication to independence for America. We owe him a large debt for the sacrifice he made, the hardship he endured, and the wisdom and courage he demonstrated in the defining years of our nation’s birth.
These awards are our effort to pay tribute to the very best in contemporary public service, and they mean a great deal to all of us in the Kennedy family. We salute this year’s honorees, and we commend them for their courage.
California’s recently elected Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, is one of the three leaders we honor today. With the best of intentions and at a cost of nearly half a billion dollars, California had acquired new electronic voting machines that newly-elected Secretary Bowen felt raised significant security and accountability concerns. When she took office in 2007, she ordered an independent review, which quickly made clear the technology had unacceptable flaws.
Her position was highly unpopular, but she didn’t hesitate. She began the daunting task of ensuring fair and accurate voting. Last August, she courageously decided that she had to do something about it herself, and she de-certified three of the most widely used electronic voting systems in the state. Her actions forced the restoration of paper ballots. It was no small task to face down the status quo and insist on reform, but Secretary Bowen had the courage to persevere, and the reforms she instituted were in place in time for the Presidential primary held in February in the state.
Our next honoree, Ohio’s first woman Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, showed similar courage on that issue. She was well aware that the confidence of voters in Ohio had been deeply shaken by scandals and voting irregularities in several recent elections. After taking office last year, she immediately set out to correct the problems.
She began by proposing that all poll workers be recruited impartially and trained properly, so that future elections would be managed by trained professionals, not partisans.
She called for the resignation of all four members of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, which includes Cleveland, after two election workers in the county were imprisoned for election offenses.
She then decided full review of state ballot procedures was essential, and it found “critical security failures” that made easy tampering possible in the voting machines.
She immediately ordered the state’s touch-screen voting systems to be replaced with a reliable system of paper ballots that could be optically scanned.
Her decision was met with immediate resistance from all corners of Ohio’s political world. Local politicians and even newspaper editorial boards insisted that her decision was “injecting a culture of fear and intimidation” into the electorate and that there wasn’t enough time to change the current system before the state’s Presidential primary in March.
Despite the strong political winds against her, she kept moving forward and insisted that every vote had to be counted correctly on election day.
The results speak for themselves. Voter turnout was heavy, but the paper ballots saved the day, and restored the basic right to vote in a state that had lost confidence in its election system and its elected officials as well.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown says of Brunner, “I’ve rarely seen anyone in public life so focused and persistent in fighting for the right causes.” As we honor her here, I know President Kennedy would agree.
Our third honoree, former Governor William Winter of Mississippi was a true pioneer for civil rights at a very difficult time in his state. His commitment had been born during his distinguished service in the Army’s desegregated officer corps in World War II, and his public service in his state is an inspiring example of genuine courage in leadership.
He was an early supporter of equal rights for African Americans in his state in the 1960’s, and paid a high price. He lost his first two races for governor, in 1967 and 1975. But he refused to give in, and in 1979 he became the first outright integrationist to win the office.
His landmark achievement was the Education Reform Act, as he called the state legislature into special session in the winter of 1982 to pass it. It guaranteed equal opportunity in education, and required state-wide kindergarten for all children in the state, including the fifty percent of public school children who were African American, and persuaded the legislature to raise taxes to pay for it.
His far-reaching legislation has often been called the Christmas miracle. It lived up to President Kennedy’s ideal that all children should have the opportunity to rise up and reach their full potential.
He was not permitted to seek another term as governor, and he was defeated in his effort to challenge an incumbent Senator. But he continued his public service for many years. He was a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard in 1985. President Clinton appointed him to his Advisory Board on Race in the 1990’s, and he helped lead the recovery effort for the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi is named for him, and it’s fitting that we honor him now with this Lifetime Achievement Award.
Remarks made by Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) at the 2008 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, May 12, 2008.