Senator Mitt Romney will be the recipient of this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his vote to impeach Trump. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the awards in a May 26 virtual ceremony.
Past recipients have included Nancy Pelosi, Gabrielle Giffords, Barack Obama, and John Lewis.
Romney, 74, said he was appreciative and humbled by the award. Although he made many enemies in his own party, “I sleep well because I know that I did what my conscience told me was the right thing to do,” he said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is one of seven people who will also be honored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for risking their own health and safety to protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While her leadership earned praise from many, she also faced sustained, vocal backlash over stay-at-home rules that remained in place as COVID-19 cases in Michigan continued to rise during the spring. Protests over Whitmer’s pandemic response became increasingly threatening, with armed demonstrators surrounding and at one point storming the state capitol to demand an end to stay-at-home orders. In October, thirteen men were charged with a June 2020 plot to kidnap Whitmer. The men were said to be motivated at least in part by anger and resentment over pandemic restrictions. Despite violent threats against her life, Whitmer did not back down. She stayed focused on following the science and listening to public health experts to get the pandemic under control and start rebuilding Michigan’s economy.
Other honorees include:
- Dr. Amy Acton, State Health Dept Director, Ohio — the first woman physician appointed to Ohio’s top public health position, boldly proposed an aggressive shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19. While her leadership put Ohio ahead of most other states in responding to the virus, she became the target of protestors and legislators who sought to limit her power while engaging in personal attacks against her.
- Burnell Cotlon, Burnell’s Market, Louisiana — When the pandemic put many in his community out of work, Cotlon began allowing customers to take groceries on credit. Within a month, he’d opened tabs for more than 60 customers who could no longer afford to buy food. Cotlon, an Army veteran who lived in a FEMA trailer for three years after Hurricane Katrina, missed mortgage payments on his own house as his store quickly lost revenue, but he continued to offer lines of credit and even gave away food to customers.
- Fred Freeman, Fire Department Captain, Massachusetts — led the establishment of an innovative Mobile Integrated Health Unit allowing the town of Hanover to deliver COVID-19 testing and other critical health services directly to residents in their homes. Allowed vulnerable patients to remain at home, slowing the spread of the virus and alleviating pressure on a health care system already strained by the pandemic.
- Antonio Greene, Amazon Associate and former Delivery Associate, South Carolina — Greene noticed a sign on the door of customer’s home which alerted visitors that the occupant was undergoing chemotherapy and was immunocompromised. Shortly after leaving the package at the customer’s doorstep, Greene returned with flowers and a message of support addressed to the man. A week later, Greene stopped by again just to check in, forging an unexpected bond between the two men.
- Lauren Leander, Intensive Care Nurse, Arizona — an ICU nurse who cares for critically ill COVID-19 patients, stood with three of her colleagues in support of stay-at-home orders that were critical to slowing the spread of the virus during the early days of the pandemic. Leander’s courageous, silent counterprotest at a rally of hundreds of angry protestors demanding that the state of Arizona immediately reopen was captured in a now-iconic photo in which an unmasked protester stood before her at close range. Leander stood in silence as rally attendees intentionally coughed on her and her fellow nurses and accused them of being paid actors. Leander has utilized her new platform to create a GoFundMe Page to help raise over $286,000 dollars that has been used for PPE, medical supplies, and compassion fatigue gifts for Navajo and Hopi frontline nurses.
- Darrell Marks, Native American Academic Advisor, Arizona — Marks, a single parent raising two teenage sons, has coordinated deliveries of food and supplies to Navajo and Hopi families struggling during the pandemic; advocated for voting rights in the face of efforts to disenfranchise Native Americans; worked to provide access to remote learning opportunities in tribal areas made even more isolated by COVID-19; and served as a personal counselor and resource to students struggling with loss and depression.