Whitmer to receive JFK Profile in Courage Award for effort to fight COVID-19

By: - May 4, 2021 12:33 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been named one of seven John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage Award recipients for her effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is my honor to accept this prestigious award on behalf of every Michigander who stepped up to help their family and community through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Whitmer through a statement. “I am humbled by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Kennedy Family for their recognition. We must all live up to the call of public service put forward by President Kennedy decades ago and exemplified by the heroes on the frontlines of this pandemic who are putting shots in arms and working tirelessly in schools, stores, and hospitals statewide.”

Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, will present the awards as part of a virtual ceremony on May 26. Kennedy, daughter of the late president, said the honorees put their own lives at risk to keep others safe.

“They inspire us all with their courage and give new meaning to President Kennedy’s legacy of public service,” Kennedy said.

When Michigan’s first cases of COVID-19 were identified in early March 2020, Whitmer invoked emergency powers in an effort to contain the spread of the virus and save lives. Her actions included orders to close schools and businesses, mandate mask wearing, and ban large gatherings, among other measures. In October, 13 men were charged with a June 2020 plot to kidnap and kill Whitmer. The men were said to be motivated, in part, by anger and resentment over pandemic restrictions.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service as well as to celebrate the day of his May 29 birthdate.

Whitmer and six others will be honored. Each “represents the courage and national sacrifice we have witnessed in so many aspects of American life,” Kennedy said.

They are:

  • Dr. Amy Acton, a former Ohio Health Department director
  • Burnell Cotlon, owner of Burnell’s Market in New Orleans, La.
  • Fred Freeman, a fire department captain in Hanover, Mass.
  • Antonio Greene, an Amazon employee in Charleston, S.C.
  • Lauren Leander, an intensive care nurse in Arizona
  • Darrell R. Marks, an academic advisor in Arizona


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.