Mayor Mitch Landrieu was honored as politically courageous as he received an award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The former New Orleans mayor was chosen to receive this year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for spearheading the removal of four Confederate monuments in the Southern city.
The award recognizes and celebrates “the quality of political courage that he admired most”. The honor was established by members of the Kennedy family to commemorate late president JFK.
In his #ProfileinCourage remarks, former New Orleans @mayorlandrieu described how President Kennedy’s legacy calls us to fight for the future of the United States. Watch full speech at: https://t.co/NRz1GvgM9t pic.twitter.com/uy07MifOJc— JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) May 21, 2018
Mayor Landrieu served from 2010 until earlier this month. In 2015, he pushed a proposal calling for the removal of statues depicting Confederate commander Robert E. Lee, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and Confederate general P.G.T. Beauregard, and one dedicated to those who opposed Reconstruction.
The decision to remove them came months after white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine black church goers during a Bible study gathering in South Carolina.
Landrieu slammed the monuments as a symbol of "a much deeper problem that the country has always had on race.”
“When a piece of wood or metal is put up with the purpose of communicating to blacks or Hispanics that they’re not welcome or that they’re less than, I think that’s not a debate that can win in the 21st century,” he said. “I think that’s wrong.”
“When the killings took place in Charleston it was pretty clear that we had to do something significant to move forward. We don’t really talk to each other well in America about the issue of race,” he said. “We tend to talk around it, not go through it.”
"Our democracy is counting on each and every one of you and in your countless acts of selfless courage to do your part. When millions of us do just our small part all at the same time, there is no mountain too high, no task too daunting, no dream too big." —@MayorLandrieu— JFK Library (@JFKLibrary) May 21, 2018
His decision to remove the statues was met with major resistance. One group collected 31,000 signatures opposing the removal of the Confederate monuments, some demonstrators waved Confederate flags near the statue of Jefferson Davis, and contractors hired to remove the statues received death threats.
Landrieu said the fight over the monuments was about “confronting and correcting the very ideas and attitudes that allowed them to be erected in the first place.”
"Americans do not need to hold each other down or push each other away to claim their fair share of the American dream,” he said. “There is no need to feel afraid or threatened by those who look different than you.”