Secretary of State Michael G. Adams


Compares Kentucky to JFK’s Camelot

BOSTON, MA – Secretary of State Michael Adams on Sunday, June 9th, accepted the 2024 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his work to expand voting rights in Kentucky and push back against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about elections.

He made the following remarks at the annual Profile in Courage Awards Gala at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum:

“Good evening. Thank you for being here, and for furthering the yet-unfinished work of President Kennedy.

When [JFK grandson] Jack [Schlossberg] called to offer this prestigious award, he pointedly asked whether I’d accept it. Obviously, I said yes, but I wondered why he did that. So, I took a look at some of the previous award winners: Former President Gerald R. FordFormer President George H.W. BushFormer President Barack Obama. And then, it dawned on me: after they got this award, none of those guys ever got elected to higher office. Nevertheless, I’ll take my chances.

As touched, and as grateful beyond words, as I am to be given this award, part of me wishes it didn’t need to exist, and that political courage should not have to be a thing. I’m glad that the JFK Library Foundation acknowledges, and incentivizes, political courage, because it may be needed now more than ever before.


Today’s politics penalizes the workhorse and rewards the show-horse; it prizes provocateurs and punishes problem-solvers.  And now that social media have made everybody an expert in everything, we risk descent from the Madisonian model of democracy, in which we elect our best as trustees to run our government on our behalf, to a tainted model in which independent and judicious thought by our leaders is not encouraged – indeed, leadership is out, and followership is in. In this model, our elected representatives simply take direction from the reigning mob of the moment. This form of direct democracy is an illusion.

In his book Profiles in Courage, then-Senator Kennedy’s observations are timeless, such as the various pressures we elected officials face in making decisions. What seems quaint 68 years on is that, now, more than political courage is needed. Today, when we admire courage in public servants – be they secretaries of state, county clerks, poll workers, school board members, even public health officials and practitioners – we refer to physical couragethe courage to risk physical harm in order to serve the public.

I have not received this award for that reason – there are others who have risked far more than I. I would like to think I’ve been given this award to celebrate a happy ending, and to mark an example others should follow in order to keep the American experiment in self-government alive.

Over the past 4 years, while other states have played politics with voting, and adopted election policies that stoke controversy, Kentucky instead has moved forward. First, in the 2020 elections, we defied naysayers and conspiracy theorists, on both Left and Right, by expanding voting options in the midst of coronavirus, but also taking reasonable steps to ensure integrity in the process. That spring, when we held our primary, Kentucky became the first state in American history to successfully conduct an election in a pandemic, with no fraud, no suppression, and most important, no casualties.

Having been proved right, we then doubled down, challenging our Legislature to make many of these bold reforms permanent. And they didWe’ve quadrupled the number of days to vote. We’ve made it easier to vote by absentee ballot. We’ve established voting centers, so voters won’t be turned away if they show up at the wrong place. When I say we, that’s not just me: that’s also a governor of the other party from mine, and state legislators coming together across party lines.

It’s not just the mechanics of our elections, either. It’s also that Kentucky state and county election officials – here too, not just me – have been willing to vociferously rebut false claims of vote fraud and election rigging. Moreover, our voters deserve credit too, because when we’ve had candidates for these positions, and for our state legislature, who traffic lies and demagoguery about our elections, our voters reject them.

You might say, when it comes to elections – to the expansion of democracy, to results that are fair, free, and accepted whether one wins or loses – Kentucky is a special place. You might even say, “Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was Camelot.”

My goal tonight, and all our hope as well, is that the moment will not be brief, nor will it be one. May this award, and this ceremony, inspire others across our country, at this critical time, to go and do likewise.

Thank you so much.”

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