Ever since I was a little girl, people have told me that my father changed their lives. They got involved in public service, in government, in their communities because he asked them to and they wanted to be part of something larger and better than themselves. President Kennedy's Inaugural challenge"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country"inspired a generation in the 1960s that transformed our nation with courage and dedication and in turn inspired those who followed. To me, that is one of his greatest legacies, and it is in them that his spirit lives on.
Now it is up to us to redefine that commitment for our time. That is why my family, in association with the John F. Kennedy Library, created the Profile in Courage Awardto celebrate individuals who today are demonstrating the same kind of courage and commitment that characterized President Kennedy's career. Named after his Pulitzer-prizewinning book, the award honors elected officials and occasionally other public servants at any level of government across the political spectrum who act in the public interest regardless of the consequences for their own political fortunes.
Since the award was founded in 1989, we have honored President Gerald Ford for his pardon of former President Richard Nixon, which many believe cost him the presidency, because Ford believed he had a responsibility to help heal the country after the wounds of Watergate. We have honored Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, who told her city the hard truths, raised taxes, cut salaries, laid off workers and turned Atlanta around. We have also presented the award to individuals who reached across the political divide to achieve reform when it was an unpopular thing to dospecifically, Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold for their efforts to level the playing field in the financing of campaigns. We honored Congresswoman Hilda Solis for building a coalition to pass groundbreaking environmental legislation as a young Latina state senator in California.
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