Mitt Romney to receive JFK prize for courage for his vote to impeach Trump

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney will receive the John F Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for being the only Republican to vote to impeach former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial in early 2020.

The award was created by the family of the late president to acknowledge those who risk their careers for the greater public good by taking on unpopular positions. The award is named after Mr Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage”.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of JFK, said in a statement from the JFK Library Foundation: “Senator Romney’s commitment to our Constitution makes him a worthy successor to the senators who inspired my father to write ‘Profiles in Courage’.”

She added: “He reminds us that our Democracy depends on the courage, conscience and character of our elected officials.”

The 74-year-old Mr Romney said he was inspired by his father George Romney, who was an automotive executive and served as the governor of Michigan.

“When I think of courage, I think of my Dad. He did what was right regardless of consequence. I aspire to his example, though I have failed from time to time. We must subordinate our political fortunes to the causes of freedom, equal opportunity and truth, particularly as they are under assault here and abroad,” he said according to The Associated Press.

Mr Romney served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 before running for president in 2008 and 2012, getting the Republican nomination on his second attempt, but losing the election to Barack Obama.

Former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial focused on his relationship with Ukraine and whether he had withheld military support to the country to pressure them to publicly open an investigation into Joe Biden, who had yet to enter the presidential contest by that point.

Mr Romney became the first senator to vote for the conviction of a president of his own party in US history. He was intensely criticised for his vote and even got threats from supporters of then-president Trump.

Mr Romney told NBC News on Friday: “Well, no question, there are a few people that are not happy with me. I understand that that’s the nature of the job that I’ve got.”

When asked if he felt the vote was worth it, he said: “Absolutely. I mean, I sleep well because I know that I did what my conscience told me was the right thing to do.”

Mr Romney didn’t join the efforts of Mr Trump and other Republicans to overturn the 2020 election, but defended its integrity and opposed the efforts of some of his colleagues. After the Capitol riot on 6 January, he called on his fellow Republican senators to stand up for the truth that Joe Biden had fairly won the election.

In Mr Trump’s second impeachment trial following the insurrection, six other Republican senators joined Mr Romney in voting to convict Mr Trump, but it was not enough to reach the threshold to remove him from office.

The 63-year-old Caroline Kennedy told NBC News: “Not everybody has the courage to accept this award, but we’re grateful to the senator, and we feel as a committee, we have to be courageous to call it like we see it. Certainly, senator Romney’s example stood out.”

Mr Kennedy’s 1957 book ‘Profiles in Courage’ tells the stories of eight senators who risked their careers to take unpopular positions and stand up for their principles. The John F Kennedy Library Foundation created the award in 1989.

A virtual ceremony will be held in May to present the award, a sterling-silver lantern which symbolizes a beacon of hope, to Mr Romney.

Selected by a bipartisan panel of 15 national leaders, previous recipients include Presidents Barack Obama, Gerald Ford, and George HW Bush, Arizona senator John McCain, and Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee.

Mr Romney ran and lost against JFK’s younger brother Ted Kennedy in the 1994 Massachusetts Senate election. They later collaborated on a healthcare law enacted when Mr Romney served as Massachusetts governor. Mr Romney told NBC News: “We became very good friends as time went on.”

He said that the kind of bipartisanship like the cooperation between Mr Kennedy and himself, is what the country is in need of right now: “I think common ground is the best way to unify the country. I’m afraid if the president of either party instead just follows the demands of the most aggressive wing in his party, you may have that wing satisfied, but the nation has become more divided. You’ve got to find common ground and work with people in both parties and get answers to issues that are bipartisan.”

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