Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming are among this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for the “courage they’ve shown protecting democracy in the United States and abroad.”
Michigan Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Fulton County, Georgia, election worker Wandrea “Shaye” Moss are also being honored with the award this year, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Thursday.
The foundation praised Zelensky, whose country is fighting off an invasion by Russia, for his “principled leadership” and marshaling the “spirit, patriotism, and untiring sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in a life-or-death fight for their country.”
“With candor and clarity, he has focused the eyes of the world on the existential threat facing Ukraine, and on the need for robust, uncompromising international engagement and cooperation to safeguard all democratic societies,” the foundation said in a news release.
The other recipients were honored with the award for standing up to former Donald Trump and his allies’ false claims about fraud in the 2020 presidential election and efforts to overturn the election results.
A staunch Republican, Cheney voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection on January 6, 2021, when a violent mob stormed the US Capitol building, seeking to stop Congress’ certification of the 2020 election. She was ousted last year from her leadership role in the Republican House caucus after she repeatedly called out Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election. Cheney now serves as the vice chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack.
The foundation lauded Cheney as a “consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy,” saying that – despite the death threats she faced over her impeachment vote – she “refused to take the politically expedient course that most of her party embraced.”
As Michigan’s chief election officer, Benson was threatened and harassed, including armed protesters gathering outside her home, for certifying Joe Biden’s win in Michigan. Bowers, a Republican, resisted pressure from Trump and his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani to replace Arizona’s electors with illegitimate, alternate electors that would elect Trump. Moss became the target of a false accusation that she had processed fake ballots for Biden and faced death threats and racist taunts.
“These honorees have placed their careers and lives on the line to protect democratic principles and free and fair elections,” the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said. “They embody what President Kennedy admired most in others—political courage.”
The Profile in Courage Award, created in 1989, is presented to “public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.”
Past recipients of the award include Presidents Barack Obama and George H. W Bush, Sens. Mitt Romney and the late John McCain, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the late US Rep. John Lewis.