Skip to Main

May 20, 2019

WGBH: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Receives JFK Profile in Courage Award In Boston

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accepted the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Sunday, taking care not to mention President Donald Trump, the Republican Party, or friction among Democrats.

Speaker Pelosi, who made history by becoming the first female speaker in 2007, was honored for facilitating the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The award, created in 1989 by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation to honor the late president’s commitment to public service. is presented each May “to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.” The recipient is selected by a 16-member committee. Previous honorees include former U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“That I too am honored with this award is something I accept with a full and humble heart,” Pelosi said during her acceptance speech. “I don’t like when people say I’m the highest-ranking woman this, or that because I thought by now we would certainly have a woman president, and hopefully, that will be sometime in the near future,” she said to applause. “However, it did take courage for my colleagues to elect a [woman] speaker.”

Before the event, Pelosi told reporters she was “overwhelmed by the honor of it all.” When asked about reaction to Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash’s assertion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses, Pelosi deflected answering “No. That’s not what we’re here about tonight.” She then responded to a question about political courage in the Congress.

“I do think that there could be more courage demonstrated to speak out about what the president is doing, but tonight we’re celebrating positive aspects of courage — acts of courage my colleagues took to vote for the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi said. “I think I’m being honored, but I accept the honor on behalf of all the people for whom it did take courage to do.”

Many attendees, praised the 31-year legislator’s role in securing passage of the ACA and her leadership of Democratic Party during a challenging time.

Congressman Bill Keating, a previous recipient of the award, said Pelosi is keeping Democrats “riveted on what affects people and what our priorities are.”

“We’re fortunate to have her at the helm,” said first-term Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley. “She embodies a unique combination of grit and grace,” and is “one of the greatest strategists” of modern times.

Pressley, who furnished one of the votes Pelosi needed to stave off a challenge to her speakership by fellow Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, said she is grateful for Pelosi’s counsel. “She provides historical context and institution wisdom and memory,” Pressley told reporters.

Former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy also complimented Pelosi’s “political acumen and leadership qualities” playing off a popular nickname for his father, Ted Kennedy.

“Not far from here is the institute named for my late father who people said was the lion of the Senate. Nancy Pelosi is the lioness of the House,” he said pointing to the passage of the ACA. “I think when history is written, there will be no more powerful legislator in the history of the Congress. I think my father would agree with this.”

Other guests included Robert Kraft, political strategist David Axelrod, U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro, former State Secretary John Kerry and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.