Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript

CNN TV
EDITIONS
SERVICES
CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Former President Gerald Ford Receives Profile in Courage Award

Aired May 21, 2001 - 11:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures, Dorchester, Massachusetts, the John F. Kennedy Library -- the daughter of the slain president, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg now reading the citations, awarding the Profile in Courage award to former President Gerald Ford and Congressman John Lewis.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CAROLINE KENNEDY SCHLOSSBERG, DAUGHTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: ... political future. We are honored to present you, President Ford, with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for 2001.

(APPLAUSE)

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very, very much, Caroline.

Caroline, Senator Kennedy, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a very high honor, very rare privilege for me to be here on this occasion. And I am deeply grateful to you, Caroline, the Kennedy family, for this award. History has been defined as argument without end.

Come to think of it, Ted, much the same could be said of the United States Senate.

(LAUGHTER)

No doubt, arguments over the Nixon pardon will continue for as long as historians relive those very, very tumultuous days. But I would be less than candid -- indeed, less than human -- if I didn't tell you how grateful, how profoundly grateful Betty and I are for this recognition.

Indeed, the award committee has displayed some of its own brand of courage. Best, of course, around this place, courage is contagious. To know Jack Kennedy as I did was to understand the true meaning of the word. Physical pain was inseparable as a part of his life. He never surrendered to it any more than he yielded to the charge of freedom's enemies during the most dangerous moments of the nuclear age.

President Kennedy understood that courage is not something to be gained in a poll or located in a focus group. No adviser can spin it. No historian can backdate it. For in the age-old contests between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity's approval.

Half a century ago, I entered politics because of a big idea. Rejecting the Midwestern isolationism of my youth, I learned on a combat aircraft carrier in the Pacific that leadership carries with it a very great price, a price measured in the 20th century by eternal vigilance against those who would put the soul itself in bondage.

In the course of almost 88 years, I've seen more than my share of miracles. I have witnessed the defeat of Nazi tyranny, the destruction of hateful walls that once divided free men from the enslaved. Here at home, thanks to the tremendous bravery of men like John Lewis, we are belatedly honoring the promise we made to one another at the founding of the republic. We have at last begun to recognize women for their talents and revere them for their contributions.

My generation has celebrated the end of polio, cheered as men left their footprints on the moon, and scratched its head while trying to figure out the difference between a gigabyte and a happy meal.

(LAUGHTER)

None of this just happened. It happened because people of conscience refused to be passive in the face of injustice or indifferent to the demands of democracy.

Now a new generation in a new century is summoned to complete our unfinished work and to purge our politics of cynicism. Today, the challenge of political courage looms larger than ever before.

Our political life is becoming so expensive, so mechanized and so dominated by professional politicians and public relations men that the idealist who dreams of independent statesmanship is rudely awakened by the necessity of the election and accomplishments. So said Senator John Kennedy in introducing Profile in Courage. Forty- five years later, his concerns are more relevant than ever.

If there is distrust out there -- and, unfortunately, there is -- perhaps it is because there is so much partisan jockeying for advantage at the expense of public policy. At times, it feels as if the American politics consists largely of candidates without ideals hiring consultants without conviction to stage campaigns without concern. Increasingly, the result is elections without voters.

It doesn't have to be that way. Wherever I go on my various travels around the country, I sense a longing for community and a desire on the part of Americans to be part of something bigger, finer than themselves.

This is a especially true among the young people. History tells us...

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to break away from the Profile in Courage Awards. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 Search   


Back to the top