JFK Library ‘Profile in Courage’ awardee Cheney asks, ‘Will we do our duty? Will we stand for truth?’

Five people were honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award during the annual May Dinner, held at the JFK Library in Dorchester on Sunday, May 22. Pictured, l-r: Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Yaroslav Brisiuk, deputy chief of Mission, Embassy of Ukraine (who accepted the award on behalf of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy), Fulton County, Georgia Election Department Employee Wandrea “Shaye” Moss, and Jack Schlossberg, the son of Ambassador Kennedy. Photo courtesy JFK Library Foundation

Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming was one of five people honored with the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profile in Courage award on Sunday in Dorchester. A “lifelong, committed conservative Republican,” US Rep. Cheney was chosen for the citation, in part, for her service as vice-chair of the US House Select Committee’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol in Washington. Excerpts from her acceptance remarks follow:

“I think it is perhaps the greatest blessing of our nation that citizens in every generation have answered the call to defend our freedom. I have found myself, especially since Jan. 6, thinking often of my great-great grandfather and the Union he fought to defend. And this was never more true than on the night of Jan. 6.

“That night, the House returned to the chamber around 9 o’clock. Furniture that had been used as a barricade was still stacked against the walls, the glass in the chamber doors was shattered, and containers that had held gas masks were strewn around. A short time before Congress went back into session, I left the House floor and walked to Statuary Hall, which, as you know, is where the House of Representatives met from 1807 to 1857. In that historic space there are brass markers on the floor that mark where the desk of Abraham Lincoln sat, and where the desk of John Quincy Adams sat. And there are statues of great Americans that line the walls.

“That night, law enforcement officers in black tactical gear were sitting on the floor, leaning against the statues, exhausted from the brutal hand-to-hand combat in which they had been engaged for hours. Bottles with water they’d been drinking and using to wash away the chemical spray deployed by the rioters littered the floor. These men and women had spent hours battling the violent mob, a mob of our fellow countrymen, attempting to stop the transition of presidential power. For profiles in courage, we need look no farther than those men and women.

“It is no exaggeration to say that their courage likely saved our lives and our democracy. I tried to thank them, but my words that night seemed inadequate. As I walked out of Statuary Hall, I looked above the door and standing above the door… is the oldest statue in our Capitol. It is a statue of Clio, the muse of History. Clio rides in the chariot of time and she has a book in her hands in which she takes notes, reminding all of us that our deeds are inscribed in the pages of History.

“I walked from Statuary Hall into the rotunda, the most sacred space in our republic. This is a space where presidents— including President Lincoln and President Kennedy—have lain in state. This is the space watched over by statues of Washington and Jefferson and Lincoln and Grant and Eisenhower and Ford and Reagan. That night, against almost every wall encircling that room were SWAT teams, men and women in riot gear, helmets, carrying long-arms, some resting from battle, others standing watch. ATF, FBI, federal agents deployed inside the United States Capitol building…

“George Washington set the indispensable example of the peaceful transfer of power in our country. This is what President Reagan called “nothing short of a miracle.” This is what President Kennedy, in his inaugural address, called “a celebration of freedom.” And this sacred obligation to defend the peaceful transfer of power has been honored by every American president, except one.

“Standing on the east front of the United States Capitol on a snowy morning in 1961, President Kennedy said, “In the long history of freedom, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” Today, that role is ours as we face a threat we have never faced before: A former president attempting to unravel our constitutional republic.

“At this moment we must all summon the courage to stand against that. The question for every one of us in this time of testing is, Will we do our duty? Will we defend our Constitution, will we stand for truth, will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics? Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies, and enable the liar?

“As we leave here tonight, I ask all of you to remember this sacred duty that is passed to us. To remember that in our republic, some things have to matter. The defense of our republic, the defense of the constitutional foundations of our nation, have to matter. In a republic there are no bystanders, there are no spectators. As citizens, every one of us has a duty to set aside partisan battles and stand together to perpetuate and preserve our great republic. Ladies and gentlemen, we are engaged in a battle we must win, and with courage and clarity and grit, it is a battle we will win.”

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