NBC’s Guthrie Frets: ‘Fewer’ Profiles in Courage in Trump Era

During an interview on Wednesday’s Today show with President John F. Kennedy’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, about the JFK Library’s annual Profile in Courage Award, NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie worried that it was becoming difficult to find courageous politicians in the Trump era.

“I mean, you know, you think about politics these days. I wonder if...there are fewer and fewer examples of courage. I mean, is the pool getting smaller from acts to choose from?,” she asked Schlossberg. He responded by pointing to young liberal activists: “No, I don’t think so. I’m optimistic about it....young people especially organizing around the country, to do what they think is right for our national interests and to choose good leadership.”

 

 

The segment began by Guthrie and her fellow co-host Hoda Kotb reminding viewers of the origin of the award:

GUTHRIE: We’re back with Today’s Talker. In 1957, then-Senator John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Profiles in Courage.

KOTB: It celebrated the actions of eight senators who made tough political choices to do what was right even though it hurt their popularity and their careers.

GUTHRIE: And since 1989, the Kennedy family and the JFK Library Foundation have awarded the Profile in Courage Award to celebrate election officials who’ve made similar choices.

One of the other frequent qualifications is that the recipient be a Democrat, or at least be known for implementing a liberal policy (Former President George H.W. Bush received the award in 2014, but only specifically for his decision to raise taxes during his presidency). Keeping with that tradition, the 2018 award was granted to former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. One Democratic political dynasty decided to honor a member of another Democratic political dynasty.

Kotb enthusiastically declared: “So you chose Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans, as your pick. And he made some very tough choices. Tell us why he was the one.” Schlossberg explained:

Well, Mitch Landrieu stood out this year not just for what he did but for how he did it. He chose to remove four confederate statues in his city of New Orleans and offered one of the most compelling and compassionate speeches that I’ve heard in a long time, explaining why he thought that decision was the right one.

One wonders why then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was not given the same honor back in 2015 when she made the decision to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds. But then again, she’s a Republican.

Near the end of the segment, Guthrie pressed Schlossberg, a recent Yale graduate currently attending Harvard Law School, about his future career plans: “But you know, we always bother you about future aspirations, but what do you think? Do you think you feel like you know what you what to do? Are you going to be a lawyer, are you going to be a businessman?”

The last time Schlossberg appeared on morning show, along with his mother Caroline Kennedy, Guthrie and disgraced former co-host Matt Lauer repeatedly pressed the young Kennedy family member if he was planning to run for office.

Also during that appearance, in May of 2017, Schlossberg and his mother revealed that former President Barack Obama would receive that year’s Profile in Courage Award. Not a very surprising decision since Caroline Kennedy worked for the Obama administration as U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

Here is a full transcript of the May 16 report:

8:09 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We’re back with Today’s Talker. In 1957, then-Senator John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Profiles in Courage.

HODA KOTB: It celebrated the actions of eight senators who made tough political choices to do what was right even though it hurt their popularity and their careers.

GUTHRIE: And since 1989, the Kennedy family and the JFK Library Foundation have awarded the Profile in Courage Award to celebrate election officials who’ve made similar choices. And here to talk about this year’s recipient is Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson. Jack, good morning, good to see you again.

JACK SCHLOSSBERG: Good morning, thanks for having me.

KOTB: Hi, Jack. So you chose Mitch Landrieu, the former Mayor of New Orleans, as your pick. And he made some very tough choices. Tell us why he was the one.

SCHLOSSBERG: Well, Mitch Landrieu stood out this year not just for what he did but for how he did it. He chose to remove four confederate statues in his city of New Orleans and offered one of the most compelling and compassionate speeches that I’ve heard in a long time, explaining why he thought that decision was the right one.

KOTB: Can we talk about that speech for a second.

SCHLOSSBERG: Please.

KOTB: Because it didn’t get tons of national play, I watched it this morning. And I was just struck by the way he seemed to include everyone in it. He talked about how Wynton Marsalis first came to him and said, “Hey, look buddy, I think we need to talk about these statues.” What struck you about it?

SCHLOSSBERG: What struck me was that the tone he struck, he was able to include people who wanted the monuments to come down, he played to the perspective of people who thought that they should stay up, and he explained why he thought that our public spaces should be committed to the principles of equality and justice that our nation stands for. And he explained why the strength of New Orleans has always been its diversity and how it brought jazz and great food through that. So I think it was a great speech for a lot of reasons.  

GUTHRIE: And one of the things you look for is not just doing something that’s popular or easy, but something that’s hard. And in fact, I think the Mayor said, “You elected me to do hard things, not the easy thing, and here it is.”

SCHLOSSBERG: Right, exactly. This award celebrates leaders who put the national interest above their own political interest to do what’s right, yeah.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, I mean, you know, you think about politics these days. I wonder if – you know, for years your family’s been giving out this award – if there are fewer and fewer examples of courage. I mean, is the pool getting smaller from acts to choose from?

SCHLOSSBERG: No, I don’t think so. I’m optimistic about it. I think certainly the Mayor’s actions stand out against a backdrop that is not as courageous as we might like, but I think people are taking it upon themselves, young people especially organizing around the country, to do what they think is right for our national interests and to choose good leadership.

GUTHRIE: Well, speaking of you, young man, you graduated from Yale. You’re at Harvard Law School now. You’re also pursuing an MBA. So I do hope you land on your feet. [Laughter] But you know, we always bother you about future aspirations, but what do you think? Do you think you feel like you know what you what to do? Are you going to be a lawyer, are you going to be a businessman?

SCHLOSSBERG: I don’t know, that’s why I’m in school, trying to figure that out.  

GUTHRIE: Your mom asked me that you answer these questions. She’s like, “Come on, pick a major.”

SCHLOSSBERG: Yeah, what are you going to do? Exactly. No, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m a lot smarter than when I got to Harvard Law School, so that’s a plus. And I’m sure that will be true when I’m done. But what I do know is that, as a young person in this country, it’s an exciting moment to – we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of work to do, and I’m excited to be part of solving problems and I don’t know how that’ll play out.

KOTB: If some were watching TV last weekend, watching Blue Bloods maybe, they may have spotted you somewhere in there. Is acting anything, is there anything about acting in your future that you see?

SCHLOSSBERG: I don't know about –  

GUTHRIE: There you are, Officer Jack Hammer. Come on.

KOTB: Come on.

SCHLOSSBERG: Yeah, I have to stop making people call me officer. No, I don’t think I’m gonna pursue an acting career. That was really fun for me. It’s my favorite show, it was a dream come true to be able to do that. So it was a lot of fun.  

GUTHRIE: Well, keep us posted.

SCHLOSSBERG: I will.

GUTHRIE: Thank you so much, we’re always glad to have you here and tell us who received the award, it’s important.

SCHLOSSBERG: Thank you.

KOTB: Thank you.


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