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. For a lifetime of distinguished and courageous public service, and for his unwavering commitment to justice for all the people of his beloved Mississippi, William Winter 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
I cannot possibly express to you what this award means to me. Even as I acknowledge my difficulty in trying to justify it, I must tell you how grateful I am to receive it. Let me thank the members of the Selection Committee ─ especially Caroline Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Thad Cochran and so many others ─for this incredibly cherished honor. I am grateful to my family and friends so many of whom are here today for their loyal support in so many ways. I am especially honored by being placed in the company of these two distinguished state officials and the illustrious previous recipients of this award.
I take particular satisfaction in receiving an award that bears the name of one of my heroes, President John F. Kennedy.
In the 1950’s as a struggling young politician in Mississippi I was looking for someone who could provide me with the inspiration to lift me above the bitter racist rhetoric that drove the politics of the Deep South at that time. I found that leader in John Kennedy, who helped free me and my fellow Southerners ─black and white ─ from a racially segregated system that imprisoned all of us.
Just as John Kennedy inspired many of us young politicians in the 1950’s and 60’s, I believe that now a half-century later the measure of our future progress will be determined by our ability to inspire a new generation of young leaders.
But before we can appeal to the idealism of a young generation, we must do more to restore some of the idealism that went into the founding of our country in the first place and which we are in danger of losing. We must remind ourselves, even as we appeal to these young leaders, that we still live under a social contract that was written into the Declaration of Independence wherein we pledged to each other “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” We must embrace that contract if we expect to inspire another generation to accept it.
We must see to it that these young leaders have a clear understanding of where we have come from and who we are as a people and how we got to where we are. There is not enough of this kind of teaching and learning going on. Too many of our most able and promising young men and women have only a passing acquaintance with the events and heroes who shaped our history.
This lack of emphasis on civic learning and historical background can be a fatal flaw in the capacity of these future leaders to lead. Without a knowledge of what has transpired before, they may well fall into the trap of repeating the old mistakes and ignoring the lessons that earlier generations paid so dearly to learn.
They must clearly understand that public and civic leadership is never an easy road to travel. There are a lot of stresses and strains these days. It is easy for us to get split up over issues about which many people feel deeply. There are full-time practitioners in politics and in the media and even in some church groups who fan the flames of emotion and discord. We must not let ourselves succumb to the tendency to demonize those who see things through different eyes, based usually on different life experiences. Sometime we have to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while to understand where they are coming from.
My perspective is that the best way to overcome these stresses is through sharing experiences – through working with others – through recognizing that we are all in this together and that the elements that we have in common are so much greater than the things that divide us. By working with other people who may be different from us, the old barriers and the old stereotypes begin to fade away.
The greatest threat to our future as a nation does not lie so much in the streets of Baghdad as it does in the streets of our own small towns and great cities. If we become a country divided by race and class and where the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen, we shall in the future pay a huge penalty in the quality of our lives and the stability of our economic and political system.
A democratic society cannot leave these problems to be solved by blind chance or individual impulse. We must develop and support leaders who can provide that vision.
All of us must be willing to speak out against bigotry and intolerance and injustice. We must seek to find worth in every person. That is how we pay our dues for the privilege of living in a free society. That is how we can pass on to the next generation a better country than the one we inherited.
I accept with humility and gratitude this award. I shall strive to be worthy of it.
Remarks made by former Mississippi Governor William Winter of receiving the 2008 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
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.