Former president Barack Obama will be the 2017 recipient of the Profile in Courage Award, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Thursday.
Caroline Kennedy, former ambassador to Japan, and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the award to Obama at a ceremony at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Dorchester on May 7.
“President Kennedy called on a new generation of Americans to give their talents to the service of the country,” Kennedy said in a prepared statement. “With exceptional dignity and courage, President Obama has carried that torch into our own time, providing young people of all backgrounds with an example they can emulate in their own lives.”
Here is some background on the award:
Origins: President Kennedy’s family established it in 1989. The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.
It is named for Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, which recounts the stories of eight US senators who risked their careers, incurring the wrath of constituents or powerful interest groups by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.
The award: A silver lantern that symbolizes a beacon of hope for the future, according to the foundation. It is modeled after a lantern on the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides.”
How recipients are selected: By a bipartisan 14-member committee that includes US representatives and senators, professors, newspaper editors, and business representatives.
Why Obama: “In many ways, President Obama shares a lot of qualities with President Kennedy,’’ Albert Hunt, chairman of the award committee, said in an interview Thursday. “He inspired a new generation to political action and tried to usher in a new era of racial reconciliation.”
Hunt, a columnist for Bloomberg News, was quick to say that the choice was not a political statement.
“The committee is a diverse, bipartisan bunch. In fact, we made the choice back in November, before the election,” he said. “If we tried to pick one event in [Obama’s] presidency to recognize, I don’t think we could find one we’d all agree on. So, we decided to honor what he represents, rather than a single act.”
Some past recipients: Former presidents George H.W. Bush and the late Gerald Ford; senators John McCain and the late Edward M. Kennedy; US representatives Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords and John Lewis; and Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy.
Andrew Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.