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Profiles in Courage

On the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage, a book about eight senators who took controversial stances, risking their careers in order to be true to their conscience. In 1989, President Kennedy’s family created an award to recognize the qualities of political courage that the book lauded. The 2006 recipients of the Profiles in Courage award are U.S. Representative John Murtha and Alberto Mora.

On November 19, 2005, John Murtha spoke up when others were silent, calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. “Mean” Jean Schmidt called him a coward; others attacked his military service and awards. Many Democrats hesitated in coming to his side. Republicans attempted to marginalize and silence him. But Murtha did not remain quiet. He has continued to make his argument that the time has come to plan our exit and let the Iraqis take control of their country. Polls show the American public increasingly agrees with him.

John Murtha has a long history of serving his country. He left college during the Korean War to serve in the Marines. He was a drill instructor at Parris Island and was selected for Officer Candidate School at Quantico Virginia. After he was discharged from active duty he remained in the reserves, volunteering to go to Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He retired from the Marine Corp. Reserves in 1990 as a Colonel. In 1974, he became the first Vietnam Vet to serve in Congress. He has championed the needs of our troops in Congress.

The second recipient, Alberto J. Moro, discovered in December 2002 that the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay were being subjected to cruel and unlawful interrogation procedures. Mora fought quietly for three years to change these policies. In his acceptance speech for the Profiles in Courage award Mora said, “ “To adopt and apply a policy of cruelty anywhere within this world is to say that our forefathers were wrong about the belief in the rights of man, because there is no more fundamental right than to be safe from cruel and inhumane treatment. Where cruelty exists, law does not.”

Alberto Mora was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1952. When he was a year old his family moved to his fathers native land, Cuba. When Castro came to power his family returned to the United States. Mora graduated from the university of Miami Law School and went on to have an impressive career in international law. At the beginning of the Bush Administration he was appointed General Counsel of the Navy. In 2005 he retired from the Navy and returned to private practice.

As Senator Kennedy said at the Profiles in Courage award ceremony, Murtha and Mora “ are two courage officials on that issue—one appointed and one elected—who prove that dissent, even in war time, may well be the ultimate act of patriotism. Both are true profiles in courage.”

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