The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award was created in 1989 by members of President Kennedy’s family to honor President John F. Kennedy and to recognize and celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most.
The award recognizes a public official (or officials) at the federal, state or local level whose actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership in the spirit of Profiles in Courage, President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. Senators who risked their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good.
The award is represented by a sterling silver lantern, modeled after the lantern on the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy. The lantern was designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.
In his design summary for the presentation piece, Schlossberg wrote:
“We chose a ship’s lantern as the most appropriate design solution for this award. The design of the presentation piece must be strong enough to enable it to become a clearly identifiable public symbol of the Profile in Courage Award. The physical presence of this piece should reflect the meaning and significance of the award. It must also be a handsome and elegant object; one which is distinctive, unique, yet easily recognizable. We believe a ship’s lantern best meets these goals….The sterling silver Profile in Courage lantern is a timeless symbol of humanity and a very special tribute to the man who inspires this award.”
- Ordinarily, the award will be made to living Americans who are or were elected officials.
- Individuals at all levels of government—federal, state and local—are eligible for the award.
- Emphasis will be placed on contemporary acts of political courage.
- On occasion, in rare and special circumstances, awards have been made to foreign officials.
The Profile in Courage Award is administered by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. A distinguished bipartisan committee named by the Foundation reviews all nominations, and selects the recipient or recipients of the award.
The award is presented each May at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in connection with the observance of President Kennedy’s birthday on May 29.