Former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis is this year’s recipient of the JFK Profile in Courage Award for his reversal on climate change — a stand that cost him his seat in Congress — and his subsequent work promoting awareness about rising temperatures, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced Monday.
Inglis reversed his position on climate change and took fire from within his own party for embracing the issue and seeking to tackle it. Inglis held office in South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District from 1993 to 1998 and again from 2005 to 2010. He lost in the 2010 GOP primary to U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.
Inglis will be presented the award May 3 at John F. Kennedy’s presidential library in Boston by JFK’s grandson Jack Schlossberg, according to a news release.
“Bob Inglis is a visionary and courageous leader who believes, as President Kennedy once said, that ‘no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings,’ ” Schlossberg said in a statement. “In reversing his own position and breaking with his party to acknowledge the realities of a changing climate and its threat to human progress, he displayed the courage to keep an open mind and uphold his responsibilities as a leader and citizen at the expense of his own political career. His evolution in thought, brave stand and continued dedication to tackling the single biggest environmental and humanitarian crisis of our time inspires us all.”
Inglis now leads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University in Virginia. The organization seeks to provide conservative solutions for climate change.
Inglis said in a telephone interview that the rise of the tea party movement spelled the end of his career. Several votes were considered “heresies” during the 2010 primary: a vote for the bank bailout known as TARP, comprehensive immigration reform and voting against a troop surge in Iraq, he said.
“The enduring heresy was saying that climate change is real and we need to do something about it,” Inglis said. “It was seen as being an apostate against the tribe. It became a huge problem for me in 2010.”
On the loss of his seat: “It hurts for sure,” he said. “I really miss Congress and wish it hadn’t happened that way.”
Inglis said he was excited and honored by the award. He said he hopes it propels climate change to become this generation’s version of JFK’s mission to go to the moon.
“The affirmation of Camelot here is to know America really can solve really big challenges,” Inglis said, referring to the Kennedy family legacy. “The world is waiting for us to do it. I just hope by reminding people of the moon shot. ... It reminds us that we can do really great things.”
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is a previous recipient of the award.
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