In Boston, Annan receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

In Boston, Annan receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Accepting the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was a special privilege to receive an honour in memory of a leader whose commitment to national progress was matched only by his "passion for global justice."

Speaking in Boston, where he received the award from Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the Secretary-General paid tribute to the late leader, stressing that few Presidents had defined their times in the way John Kennedy did.

"His youth and vigour made it a vigorous age," Mr. Annan said. "His boldness and courage made it an adventurous age. And his belief in man's ability to meet great challenges made it an age when anything seemed possible."

Mr. Annan underscored that perhaps the greatest test of leadership came when a leader needed to go against the passions of the day, the calls for revenge, the belief that peace was no longer possible. "This is when true leadership matters most," he said, referring to the current Middle East crisis. "This is when leaders must make decisions of conscience - and choose compromise over conflict, negotiations over violence, peace over war."

The world today, he stressed, was in need of "leaders to make us look beyond the horizon, beneath the distrust and behind the myths; leaders who can make us see that all men and women fundamentally seek the same opportunities for peace and prosperity."

The Secretary-General noted that during his tenure at the helm of the UN, he had "sought to place human beings at the centre of everything the United Nations does - from conflict prevention to development to human rights." He said he had used his office "as a bridge between two or more parties, wherever I saw an opportunity to resolve disputes peacefully."

At a press encounter with US Senator Edward Kennedy before the ceremony, the Secretary-General was asked how he found the courage to deal day in and day out with the deprived and unfortunate. “In many ways,” he said in response, “you give them a voice, you encourage them and then you see hope in their eyes. And that’s what cheers me on.”

At a dinner for the Award held yesterday evening, which was attended by Senator Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy, among others, Mr. Annan said the challenges of the "Kennedy era" remained very much present. In that regard, he cited the need to address the perilous divide between rich and poor and the need to erect better safeguards against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Profile in Courage Award is given annually to distinguished elected officials by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation to recognize and promote the quality of political courage and leadership.