Christine Stuart photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in his office Monday discussing the award (Christine Stuart photo)

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will receive the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in May for defending the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

Described by many as the most prestigious award for public service, Malloy said it’s a “tremendous honor.” He described himself as an “imperfect vehicle” to deliver a larger message about the Syrian refugee crisis, but said he was humbled to receive the award.

In November 2015, following the attacks in Paris, at least 25 Republican governors announced they would not allow Syrian refugees to resettle in their states. Malloy could have chosen the politically expedient course and remained silent on the highly charged, controversial issue of refugee resettlement and national security, according to a press release from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. Instead, Malloy announced that Connecticut would continue to accept refugees from Syria.

“As half of U.S. governors, leading presidential candidates, and countless others across the country voice support for a ban on Syrian refugees from entering the United States, Governor Dannel Malloy took a stand against the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric,” Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson, said. “In doing so, he put principles above politics and upheld my grandfather’s vision of America that ‘has always served as a lantern in the dark for those who love freedom but are persecuted, in misery, or in need.’”

Malloy, who has been a champion of LGBT rights, said he’s always fought to make sure he promoted an “inclusive society where people recognize their obligations to one another.”

Malloy said his acceptance of Syrian refugees inspired some other folks to fight back against the things that were being said following the Paris attacks.

“This was a very easy thing for me to do in my own way,” Malloy said.

A week after the attacks last November, Connecticut accepted a Syrian refugee family that was rejected by the state of Indiana. Malloy said he recently checked in on their progress and found their son was attending school and the family was doing well.

Malloy is the second Connecticut governor to receive the award. The first was Lowell P. Weicker, who received the award back in 1992 for having the political courage to implement an income tax.

The award comes at a time when Malloy, like Weicker, is unpopular with Connecticut residents.

“I wish I was more popular,” Malloy joked. However, he doesn’t expect anyone to take pity on him or feel bad for him for having to govern during tough economic times.

“I’m really energized. I enjoy being the governor. I enjoy working. I enjoy taking on these issues,” Malloy said. “I’m happy. Don’t anyone think I’m unhappy.”

Malloy doesn’t know who nominated him for the award. The nominations are made by a 14-member panel chaired by Albert R. Hunt, a columnist for Bloomberg View.

Previous recipients include former U.S. Congressman Bob Inglis; former U.S. President George H. W. Bush; former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords; Liberian peace activist and Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee; Hilda Solis, former California state senator and U.S. Secretary of Labor; U.S. Representative John Lewis; and Brooksley Born, former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award™ in 1989 to honor President Kennedy’s commitment and contribution to public service.

The ceremony will be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on May 1.