Hilda has an extraordinary background in public service. She first came to my attention in 2000, when she was nominated for and won the Profile in Courage Award that year for her remarkable work as a California State Senator. The award is given annually by the Kennedy Library to persons in public life who have the quality of political courage that President Kennedy so admired.
My statement praising Solis in presenting the Profile in Courage Award to her on May 21, 2000 follows. I feel the final paragraph in the statement is true as well about Hilda's service in Congress, and will be just as true about her service as Secretary of Labor.
Our goal in these annual Profile in Courage Awards is to pay tribute to the political courage of contemporary elected officials, at whatever level of government they serve -- federal, state, or local. By doing so, we hope to encourage the American people to value the quality of courage more highly in their elected representatives.
What he meant are political leaders who act on principle, who are willing to risk their career, to challenge prevailing views and powerful entrenched interests, in order to do what they believe is right.
I know that both President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy would be especially proud of the winner of this year's Profile in Courage Award.
Robert Kennedy loved those words too. In fact, he found them so inspiring that he made them the heart and the soul of his campaign for the White House in 1968 -- and those words quickly became the slogan of Bobby's campaign that year.
To me, those words have always stood for the ideal at the core of the concept of a profile in courage in our modern society. Elected officials and private citizens are constantly under enormous pressure from powerful forces in our society to get along by going along -- to support the status quo -- and avoid the risk of seeking needed change.
I think that when all of us on the selection committee for this year's Profile in Courage Award learned the story of Hilda Solis, we knew she would be the winner.
This courageous young state legislator of Hispanic heritage from California understood what my brothers meant in that beautiful quotation. She has lived her life by those words. She truly had the vision to see things that never were. She insisted on asking why not, when others refused to speak out. And best of all, she had the ability and dedication to overcome the entrenched opposition of special interest groups -- and make that change happen.
The extraordinary successes of Hilda Solis as a member of the California legislature show the power of one person with vision, ability, dedication, and courage to overcome even the most powerful forces of oppression and resistance.
Her achievements for environmental justice, minority rights, workers' rights, and women's rights are outstanding. Frankly, her achievements on any one of those issues -- so uphill and against such great odds -- might well have earned her this award. But to do as well as she has done on all four of these issues is amazing -- it's truly a grand slam for profiles in courage.
In so many ways the story of Hilda Solis is the story of the fulfillment of the American dream. She's a profile in courage for her generation and for our times.