The Profile in Courage Award presented to Gerald Ford by Ted Kennedy in 2001

The Profile in Courage Award is a private award created by the Kennedy family to recognize displays of courage similar to those John F. Kennedy originally described in his book of the same name. It is given to individuals (often elected officials) who, by acting in accord with their conscience, risked their careers or lives by pursuing a larger vision of the national, state or local interest in opposition to popular opinion or pressure from constituents or other local interests.

The winners of the award are selected by a committee named by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, which includes members of the Kennedy family and other prominent Americans. It is generally awarded each year around the time of JFK's birthday (May 29) at a ceremony at the Kennedy Library in Boston. The award is generally presented by JFK's daughter, Caroline. Also before their deaths, other presenters had included John Kennedy's brother, Ted, his son John Jr., and his widow Jacqueline.

Two recipients, John Lewis (in 2001) and William Winter (in 2008), were designated as honorees for Lifetime Achievement.

The winner is presented with a sterling silver lantern made by Tiffany's which was designed by Edwin Schlossberg. The lantern is patterned after the lanterns on the USS Constitution which was launched in 1797. It is the last sail-powered ship to remain part of the US Navy, and is permanently moored nearby.


Year Recipient Occupation Achievements Other finalists
1990 Carl Elliott Sr. Former U.S. representative (Alabama) For working to enact civil rights laws and the National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Hill-Elliott Act), which "made him the target of vicious criticism from reactionaries of both parties" and caused his ouster from Congress in 1964.[1] Henry Bellmon, Unita Blackwell, LeRoy Collins, Morris K. Udall[2]
1991 Charles L. Weltner Former U.S. representative (Georgia) For his decision to drop out of his race for reelection to a third term, rather than seek reelection and be bound by a party loyalty oath to support the candidacy of segregationist Lester Maddox.[3] Frank P. Graham, George M. Michaels, Nicholas C. Wasicsko[4]
1992 Lowell Weicker U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and the 85th Governor of Connecticut. For proposing, as governor of Connecticut, a budget that included the introduction of an unpopular state personal income tax and major spending cuts in order to address Connecticut's financial crisis.[5]
1993 James Florio Governor of New Jersey (1990–1994); U.S. representative (1975–1990)
1994 Henry B. González U.S. representative (Texas) (1961-1999)
1995 Mike Synar U.S. representative (Oklahoma)
1996 Corkin Cherubini School superintendent Efforts to rectify civil rights abuses in his small southern school district
1997 Judge Charles Price A judge for Circuit 15 in Montgomery County, Alabama. He served as a judge for the court from 1983 until his retirement from the bench on January 16, 2015.
1998 Nickolas C. Murnion A judge on the 16th Judicial District Court in Montana.
"Peacemakers of Northern Ireland" Negotiators and signatories of the Good Friday Agreement. Awarded to the negotiators and signatories of the Good Friday Agreement, "in recognition of the extraordinary political courage they demonstrated." Presented to John Hume, Gerry Adams, John Alderdice, Malachi Curran, David Ervine, Gary McMichael, Monica McWilliams, David Trimble, and George J. Mitchell.[6]
1999 Russ Feingold U.S. Senator (Wisconsin) (1993–2011);[7] Wisconsin State Senator (27th District) (1983-1993).[8] For co-sponsoring the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
John McCain U.S. Senator (Arizona) (1987-2018); U.S. Representative (1983-1987);[9] Republican nominee in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. For co-sponsoring the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
2000 Hilda Solis Member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for the 1st district; United States Secretary of Labor (2009–2013) during the Obama administration; U.S. Representative (2001–2009)
2001 John Lewis
(Lifetime Achievement Award)
An American civil rights movement leader and politician, Lewis was the U.S. representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation, and his district included three quarters of Atlanta.
Gerald Ford 38th president of the United States For his controversial pardon of Richard Nixon, which arguably cost him the 1976 election.
2002 Kofi Annan A Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.[10] He is the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.[11][12]
Dean Koldenhoven Former mayor of Palos Heights, Illinois Political courage in speaking out against religious discrimination and calling for tolerance within his community.
"Public Servants of September 11" Representatives of NYPD, the FDNY, and the military Risked their lives on September 11, 2001 attacks[13]
2003 Dan Ponder Jr. He was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1997 to 2000. He is a member of the Republican party.[14] In 2003, he received the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.[15] He was elected mayor of Donalsonville, Georgia in 2013.[16][17] Took a contentious stand in favor of hate-crimes legislation in Georgia, which may have cost him his seat in the state House.
David Beasley Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme.[18] Beasley served one term as the 113th Governor of South Carolina from 1995 until 1999, as a member of the Republican Party. For his efforts to remove the Confederate battle flag from atop the state capitol.
Roy Barnes Governor of Georgia (1999–2003).[19] For his efforts to minimize the Confederate battle emblem on Georgia's state flag.
2004 Sima Samar A well known woman's and human rights advocate, activist and a social worker within national and international forums, who served as Minister of Women's Affairs of Afghanistan from December 2001 to 2003.
Cindy Watson Former North Carolina State Representative
Paul Muegge State Senator
2005 Joe Darby The whistleblower in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal.
Shirley Franklin Mayor of Atlanta (2002–2010)
Bill Ratliff Texas State Senator (1988–2004)[20]
Viktor Yushchenko Third President of Ukraine (2005–2010)
2006 Alberto J. Mora A former General Counsel of the Navy Led an effort within the Defense Department to oppose the legal theories of John Yoo and to try to end coercive interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay, which he argued are unlawful.
John Murtha U.S. representative (Pennsylvania)
2007 Bill White Mayor of Houston (2004–2010) "Mayor White's quick actions in welcoming thousands of families displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita most certainly helped to save lives."[21]
Doris Voitier Superintendent of Schools, St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana "Despite insurmountable odds, Doris Voitier rebuilt the schools of St. Bernard Parish [after Hurricane Katrina], making sure the children of her community had a place to learn and grow when they returned home."[22]
2008 Jennifer Brunner Ohio Secretary of State
Debra Bowen Secretary of State of California (2007–2015); member of the California State Legislature (1992-2006)
William Winter
(Lifetime Achievement Award)
Governor of Mississippi (1980–1984)
2009 Edward M. Kennedy U.S. Senator (Massachusetts)
Brooksley Born Chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (1996–1999)
Sheila Bair 19th Chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC),[23] during which time she assumed a prominent role in the government's response to the 2008 financial crisis. She was appointed to the post for a five-year term on June 26, 2006, by George W. Bush.
Leymah Gbowee and the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
2010 Karen Bass Bass represented the 47th district in the California State Assembly 2004–2010, and was Speaker of the California State Assembly 2008–2010 (second woman, third African American speaker).
Dave Cogdill Republican politician who served as a State Senator from California's 14th State Senate district from December 2006 to December 2010.
Darrell Steinberg A member of the California State Senate representing the 6th District. He had also previously served as a member of the California State Assembly (1998–2004) and as a member of the Sacramento City Council (1992–1998). He is a member of the Democratic Party.
Michael Villines Former California State Assemblyman, who served from 2004 to 2010 representing the 29th district.
2011 Elizabeth Redenbaugh School Board Member, New Hanover County, North Carolina For her actions, as a member of North Carolina's New Hanover County School Board "against what she perceived as racial segregation in school redistricting plans."[24]
Wael Ghonim and the People of Egypt "presented to Wael Ghonim in honor of all Egyptians who stood up, at great personal risk, for the principles of democracy and self-governance" in the Egyptian revolution of 2011.[25]
2012 Marsha Ternus, David L. Baker, and Michael Streit Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court "[I]n recognition of the political courage and judicial independence each demonstrated in setting aside popular opinion to uphold the basic freedoms and security guaranteed to all citizens under the Iowa constitution." The justices joined the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling, Varnum v. Brien, that legally recognized same-sex marriage in Iowa; "[a]lthough the Court’s decision was unanimous, it provoked a political backlash. In November 2010, voters removed Ternus, Baker and Streit from office following an unprecedented campaign financed in part by national interest groups opposed to same-sex marriage."[26]
Robert Stephen Ford Diplomat; United States Ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008); United States Ambassador to Syria (2010-2014)[27] For "bold and courageous diplomacy" that "provided crucial support to Syrians struggling under the brutal regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad."[26]
2013 Gabby Giffords Former U.S. Representative for Arizona's 8th congressional district (2007–2012) "[I]n recognition of the political, personal, and physical courage she has demonstrated in her fearless public advocacy for policy reforms aimed at reducing gun violence." Giffords survived an assassination attempt that left her with a severe brain injury.[28]
2014 George H. W. Bush 41st President of the United States "[I]n recognition of the political courage he demonstrated when he agreed to a 1990 budget compromise that reversed his 1988 campaign pledge not to raise taxes and put his re-election prospects at risk."[29]
Paul W. Bridges Mayor of Uvalda, Georgia "[F]or risking his mayoral career with his decision to publicly oppose a controversial immigration law in Georgia" (Georgia House Bill 87). Bridges joined a federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU to stop the implementation of the law.[29]
2015 Bob Inglis Former U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 4th congressional district (1993–1999; 2005–2011) "[F]or the courage he demonstrated when reversing his position on climate change after extensive briefings with scientists, and discussions with his children, about the impact of atmospheric warming on our future. Knowing the potential consequences to his political career, Inglis nevertheless called on the United States to meaningfully address the issue."[30]
2016 Dannel Malloy Governor of Connecticut (2011–2019) For "courageously defend[ing] the U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees and personally welcom[ing] a family of Syrian refugees to New Haven after they had been turned away by another state."[31]
2017 Barack Obama 44th President of the United States "[F]or his enduring commitment to democratic ideals and elevating the standard of political courage in a new century."[32]
2018 Mitch Landrieu Mayor of New Orleans "[F]or his leadership in removing four Confederate monuments in New Orleans while offering candid, clear and compassionate reflections on the moment and its place in history."[33]
2019 Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives "[F]or putting the national interest above her party's interest to expand access to health care for all Americans and then, against a wave of political attacks, leading the effort to retake the majority and elect the most diverse Congress in our nation's history."[34]
2021 Mitt Romney U.S. Senator (Utah); Former Governor of Massachusetts (2003–2007); Republican nominee in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. "For his vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump in 2020, and his consistent and courageous defense of democracy. As the first Senator to have ever voted to convict a President of his own party, Senator Romney’s courageous stand was historic."[35]
2022 Volodymyr Zelenskyy President of Ukraine "Each for their courage to protect and defend democracy in the United States and abroad."[35]
Liz Cheney U.S. Representative at large, Wyoming; Republican
Jocelyn Benson Secretary of State for Michigan; Democratic Party of Michigan
Russell "Rusty" Bowers 54th Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives; Republican Party of Arizona
Wandrea “Shaye” Moss Elections Department employee, Fulton County, Georgia


  1. ^ Award Recipients: Carl Elliott, Sr. (1990), John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  2. ^ Award Announcement: Carl Elliott, Sr. (1990), John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  3. ^ Award Recipients: Charles Weltner (1991), John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  4. ^ Award Announcement: Charles Weltner, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  5. ^ Background: Lowell Weicker, Jr., John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  6. ^ Background: Peacemakers of Northern Ireland, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
  7. ^ Robillard, Kevin (May 14, 2015). "Feingold running for Wisconsin Senate". Politico. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  8. ^ Nelson, James (February 4, 2016). "Sen. Ron Johnson claims Russ Feingold is a career politician". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. PolitiFact. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  9. ^ "John McCain | Biography, Vietnam Experience, Political Career, & Facts | Britannica". Retrieved 2022-07-29.
  10. ^ "Kofi Annan - Biographical". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  11. ^ Annan, Kofi. "The Nobel Peace Prize 2001". Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  12. ^ "Kofi Annan | Ghanaian statesman and secretary-general of the United Nations". Retrieved 2016-09-12.
  13. ^ "Public Servants of September 11 - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum". Archived from the original on 2006-06-23.
  14. ^ "Ga House - Hon. Dan E. Ponder, Jr. (GA SH 160)". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Dan Ponder, Jr". Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Donalsonville News, Mayor-elect Ponder's plan of action". Donalsonville News. Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  17. ^ "Ponder wins Donalsonville mayor's race by three votes - - Miller County Liberal". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Executive Director". Archived from the original on 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2017-05-08.
  19. ^ Cook, James F. (2005). The Governors of Georgia, 1754–2004, 3rd Edition, Revised and Expanded. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.
  20. ^ Bill Ratliff Archived September 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, Texas State Politics, University of Texas
  21. ^ Bill White - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
  22. ^ Doris Voitier - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
  23. ^ "FDIC: Board of Directors & Senior Executives". Archived from the original on 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2010-10-17.
  24. ^ "Elizabeth Redenbaugh | JFK Library". Retrieved 2022-04-12.
  25. ^ "Wael Ghonim and the people of Egypt | JFK Library". Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  26. ^ a b 2012 JFK Profile in Courage Award Winners Announced (March 12, 2012).
  27. ^ Gordon, Michael R. (February 28, 2014). "American Envoy to Syria Steps Down". The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2014.
  28. ^ "Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to Receive JFK Profile in Courage Award | JFK Library".
  29. ^ a b "Former President George H. W. Bush and Georgia Mayor Paul Bridges Honored with JFK Profile in Courage Award | JFK Library".
  30. ^ Former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis to Receive JFK Profile in Courage Award for Stance on Climate Change
  31. ^ Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy Announced as Recipient of the 2016 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for Stand on Syrian Refugee Resettlement (April 4, 2016).
  32. ^ Former President Barack H. Obama Announced as Recipient of 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award
  33. ^ News Release: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to Receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for Removal of Confederate Monument, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
  34. ^ Nancy Pelosi named recipient of Profile in Courage Award CBS News, 7 Apr 2019
  35. ^ a b "The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award® | JFK Library".