Benson to receive John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will receive the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation, the nonprofit organization announced April 21.

The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences, and recognizes Benson’s work protecting Michigan’s and the nation’s democracy.

“There is no more important issue facing our country – and the world – today than the fight for democracy. The war in Ukraine has shown the world that we can’t take freedom for granted, and the courage of our elected officials in the U.S. reminds us that as citizens we each have a responsibility to protect our democracy and exercise our fundamental right to vote. This year’s honorees put their careers and lives on the line to stand up for democratic principles and the integrity of our elections. Their service and courage inspire us all,” said Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former president John F. Kennedy and honorary president of the foundation.

The foundation is also recognizing four other defenders of democracy with the prestigious award. They include Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), and Fulton County, Georgia Election Department Employee Wandrea “Shaye” Moss.

“I am deeply moved and grateful for this recognition of our work in Michigan to ensure every voice is heard, every vote is counted, and our democracy prevails against the unprecedented attempts to interfere with our elections and upend the will of the people,” said Benson. “I share this award with every Michigander who is working to protect and defend our democracy in the face of a barrage of lies, hateful rhetoric, and threats, and I hope this emboldens all of us to continue doing that work, even as the challenges intensify in the months and years ahead.”

Previous recipients include former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Gerald Ford, and George H. W. Bush; former U.S. Senator John McCain; and former U.S. Representatives John Lewis and Gabrielle Giffords.

The foundation will present this year’s awards at a ceremony on May 22 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Additional information is available at

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on April 21 also announced Benson’s administration won two of its National Clearinghouse Awards.

The Michigan Department of State took prizes in the categories of Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities and Outstanding Innovation in Election Cybersecurity and Technology. In both cases, the awards recognized work the department did in support of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, ensuring its meetings were accessible and creating a public comment portal.

Additionally, two other projects of the department earned honorable mentions from the EAC – the Bureau of Elections' reapportionment tool that assists clerks as they update district lines, and the department’s Democracy MVP program, which recruits volunteers to serve as election workers statewide.

“My administration works tirelessly in service of the people of Michigan and our democracy and I am grateful to the Election Assistance Commission for recognizing our work,” said Benson. “Michigan’s elections system is second to none and we will continue working to make it even stronger and more accessible and secure for all our state’s voters, no matter where they live or who they vote for.”

Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the EAC is charged with serving as a clearinghouse for election administration information. To further this mission, it launched the Clearinghouse Awards, also known as the “Clearies,” in 2016 to promote best practices in elections and celebrate the accomplishments of election officials.

Benson’s administration received an award for Improving Accessibility for Voters with Disabilities by prioritizing accessibility for Michigan’s historic, citizen-led redistricting process, throughout the seating of the Commission in 2019 and more than 130 public meetings and hearings across the state in 2021. Providing ASL interpretation and closed captioning and facilitating non-English interpretation helped provide access and aimed to fulfill the spirit and promise of a citizen-led redistricting process, enabling every community to have a voice in the shaping of their voting district.

An Outstanding Innovation in Election Cybersecurity and Technology award went to the department’s creation of a web-based, user-friendly public comment submission portal for the redistricting commission. In 2021, the portal collected over 7,028 comments and mapping submissions, furthering the transparency the of the process and enabling additional public input.

Award winners were selected by independent panels of election officials and members of the EAC’s advisory boards.