House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was honored with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Sunday evening for her long career in public service, including her work to pass the Affordable Care Act and improve diversity in Congress.
“That I too am honored with this award is something I accept with a full and humble heart,” Pelosi said during the award ceremony in Boston. “I don’t like when people say I’m the highest-ranking woman this or that because I thought by now we would certainly have a woman president, and hopefully that will be sometime in the near future.”
She continued: “However, it did take courage for my colleagues to elect a [female] speaker.”
The Profile in Courage Award was first handed out in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s legacy and “celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most.”
Past recipients included former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for her work on gun safety, former President Barack Obama for his persistent “grace under pressure” and former President George H.W. Bush for his work on bipartisan budget legislation in the early 1990s.
Pelosi spoke about her work to pass 2010′s Affordable Care Act, which granted health insurance to millions of Americans. During her acceptance speech, she gave hearty credit to fellow Democratic lawmakers who voted for the legislation, speaking fondly of late Senator Ted Kennedy and others who she championed as “all profiles in courage” in their own right.
“I’ve seen many people with conviction and commitment to their ideals. But what’s important is the third ‘C’: The courage to act upon those ideals,” Pelosi said. “In my public life I have seen leaders who understood that their duty was not to do what was easy, but what was right.
“In their name and in the name of all who hold fast to an ideal in the midst of the storm, I accept this award,” she added.
The award was presented by Caroline Kennedy, the former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the daughter of President Kennedy. Kennedy celebrated Pelosi during her introduction, calling her the “most consequential woman in American political history.”
“She has consistently acted in service of our highest principles and our most vulnerable citizens,” Kennedy said Sunday.