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Kennedy family says Profile in Courage Award will honor front-line COVID-19 heroes

Caroline Kennedy and her son, Jack Schlossberg, are asking for nominations of local heroes in the coronavirus crisis for this year's Profile in Courage Award.
/ Source: TODAY

The Kennedy family has honored public figures for their service since 1989 with the Profile in Courage Award, but this year they are looking for help in recognizing a special group of heroes.

Former U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, 62, the only surviving child of former President John F. Kennedy, and her son, Jack Schlossberg, 27, JFK's only grandson, announced Thursday exclusively on TODAY that they are inviting members of the public to submit stories of people on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis in their communities for this year's special Profile in Courage Award.

Multiple nominees will be chosen as recipients of the prestigious award at the Profile in Courage ceremony, which will be held when it's safe to have large gatherings in person, according to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

"What happened this year is we realized that we are seeing courage all around us in the in the extraordinary demonstration of people putting their own lives at risk to help the rest of us stay safe and healthy," Kennedy told Savannah Guthrie.

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People can submit stories about those who have demonstrated courage during the pandemic on the JFK Library website or on social media using the hashtag #COVIDCourage. Nominations will be accepted through the end of August and the recipients, who are chosen by a committee, will be announced in the fall.

Schlossberg showed on TODAY that he nominated his friend Paul Wasserman on Instagram for his work at Fire Station 410 in Fairfax, Virginia, where he serves as an emergency medical technician in an area that has been hard hit by the coronavirus.

"At the center of VAs outbreak, these people have gone above and beyond to meet the moment,'' Schlossberg wrote on Instagram. "In addition to working full time at the DoD, Paul’s volunteering as an EMT on long overnight and weekend shifts to help the career staff during the pandemic, who he says are the real heroes."

Kennedy and Schlossberg believe people like Wasserman embody the spirit reflected by previous recipients of the Profiles in Courage award.

"Profiles in Courage has really come to symbolize people who put others ahead of themselves, whether it's in politics, and now we're seeing that throughout our society, whether it's health care workers, grocery store workers, first responders and transit workers who are just risking their own lives for the rest of us.

"I think their example will really help the rest of us act with courage and clarity in our own lives. I think it's a wonderful tribute to the values of courage that my father championed and to leadership of the kind we need so desperately in these difficult times. Everyone's been affected by this."

The award was created 31 years ago to honor President Kennedy's birthday on May 29 and his commitment to public service. It's named in honor of his famous 1957 book, "Profiles in Courage," which tells the stories of eight U.S. senators who took principled stands for unpopular positions at the risk of their careers.

Former recipients of the award include Presidents Barack Obama, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford and members of Congress like John McCain, Gabrielle Giffords and John Lewis. Last year's recipient was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.