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JFK Library Foundation to present Profile in Courage awards to seven people who helped battle COVID-19

The JFK Presidential Library in Dorchester.
The JFK Presidential Library in Dorchester.Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced seven Profile in Courage awards for those who displayed courage and sacrifice throughout the pandemic, the foundation said Tuesday in a statement.

“Today’s honorees put their own lives at risk to keep others safe. They inspire us all with their courage and give new meaning to President Kennedy’s legacy of public service,” Caroline Kennedy, honorary president of the JFK Library Foundation, said.

The awards will be presented to the winners during a special virtual ceremony this month, which will air publicly on May 26. Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the awards during the ceremony. Winners come from all over the nation — and include one Massachusetts resident, a Hanover fire captain who helped establish a program that allowed the town to deliver COVID tests to people’s homes.


The seven people being honored with the awards are those who “will represent the courage and national sacrifice we have witnessed in so many aspects of American life,” the statement said.

US Senator Mitt Romney will also be honored during the ceremony for his historic vote in the 2020 impeachment trial.

The seven honorees are:

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for her swift, aggressive response to the pandemic and for enduring the hostile, violent reaction her actions generated when 13 armed men stormed the State Capitol to protest her stay-at-home order.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Mich., on Oct. 16, 2020.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Mich., on Oct. 16, 2020.Carolyn Kaster

Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, for “boldly [proposing] an aggressive shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19″ before the pandemic became widespread.

Burnell Cotlon, owner of Burnell’s Market in Louisiana, for letting residents buy groceries on credit when the pandemic’s economic devastation set in, even as his market began to lose revenue.

Captain Fred Freeman of the Hanover Fire Department, for his work launching the town’s at-home COVID testing program, which allowed those who were most vulnerable to receive testing without having to leave their homes and thus risk exposure to the virus.


Fire Captain Fred Freeman was named for a Profile in Courage award for his service in Hanover during the pandemic.
Fire Captain Fred Freeman was named for a Profile in Courage award for his service in Hanover during the pandemic.Hanover Fire Department

Antonio Greene, of South Carolina, an Amazon associate and former delivery associate, for leaving flowers and a message of support on the doorstep of a man’s home a week after he noticed a sign saying the man was undergoing chemotherapy and was immunocompromised.

Lauren Leander, of Arizona, an intensive-care nurse, for standing silently in support of the state’s stay-at-home order, along with three of her colleagues, even as protestors shouted in her face and intentionally coughed on her.

Darrell R. Marks, of Arizona, a Native American academic adviser, for organizing food and supply deliveries to Navajo and Hopi tribal communities, advocating for Native American Voting Rights, working to provide access to remote learning in tribal communities isolated by the pandemic, and serving as a personal counselor for students who were struggling with loss and depression.

The Profile in Courage award was created by the JFK Library Foundation in 1989 to “honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service, and to celebrate his May 29th birthday.”

The recipients are selected by a 15-member committee chaired by 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard Martha Minow, and comprised of a group of political figures from both parties, including Barack Obama’s former senior adviser, David Axelrod,, and former US senator Claire McCaskill.

“These heroes went above and beyond for their community and our country, and remind us that we all can make a difference if we answer the call to serve,” Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson, said.


Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.