Profiles In Courage


Profiles In Courage, John F. Kennedy
Summary
The Pulitzer Prize-winning account of men of principle, integrity and bravery in
American politics was here available in President John F. Kennedy's Profiles In Courage.
Eight men who served the United States Government were selected by John F. Kennedy as
models of virtue and courage under pressure. These eight men persevered in their pursuit
of justice and the right path, in spite of the coercion and vilification of the majority. These
heroes include Mississippi's Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar who stood up to
unbounded calumny when he moved to reconcile Northern and Southern differences
during the years after the Civil War, and George Norris, who, in 1910, crusaded against
the strong and often dictatorial leadership of his own party. Others profiled by Kennedy
included John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, Sam Houston,
Edmund G. Ross, and Robert A. Taft.
John Kennedy's spirited words and devotion to courage lived on in this novel. A
thoughtful and persuasive book about political integrity. (The New York Times)
Nominated for a Grammy Award in 1991, a recording of Profiles In Courage featured
John F. Kennedy, Jr., reading his father's portrait of courageous Americans. John F.
Kennedy inspired one generation, and now others, to believe that politics can be a noble
profession.
For President Kennedy, history was not a dull, dry subject, but came alive in the
stories of people who risked their careers to stand up for what was right for our country,
even when it was not the easy thing to do. This distinguished belief is played out in his
novel in several ways. For example, President John Quincy Adams faced political aversion
from his own Federalist Party which was turning to desert him. Also, Henry Clay showed
courage when he dragged himself into Senate meetings through excruciating pain and
anguish due to his failing health. John F. Kennedy stated, One man can make a
difference, and every man should try. (Preface p.10) Of course, this applies to everyone,
including women. Many people first learned how this was true when the read this book.
The leaders of the past, like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and Edmund G. Ross, set a
shining example for Americans today to live up to. Later, the John F. Kennedy Profile in
Courage Award was created by his son, John F. Kennedy Jr.. to be awarded to elected
officials who exemplified the kind of courage he wrote about.
Interestingly, many of the stories in this book told of courage in standing up against
slavery around the time of the Civil War. More than one hundred years later, the struggle
for civil rights goes on. The first two Profiles in Courage Award winners, and many other
courageous Americans, prove that people must never stop fighting for what they believe is
right. The first recipient, Alabama Congressman Carl Elliott, fought for equal opportunity
in education and was redistricted of his congressional seat in retaliation for his courageous
and principled stand. The second winner, Georgia Democratic Congressman Charles
Weltner, took an oath to support his party's ticket in the upcoming fall election. When
segregationist Lester Maddox won the preliminary and became the Democratic nominee
for Governor of Georgia, Weltner followed his conscious and resigned from politics, rather
than violate his oath, or belief that segregation was wrong.
Each of these men mentioned in Profiles In Courage risked their careers to do what
they believed was right, and often they risked their lives. John F. Kennedy hoped that each
person who read this book and learned about courageous people in public life would realize
that when a person faces a difficult decision which is bound to be unpopular, they are not
alone. Each person must stand up for what they believe in and be willing to take the
consequences, if they wanted to make the country a better place to live.
Response
In Profiles In Courage, the late President John F. Kennedy, then a Massachusetts
Senator, paid tribute to a number of Americans, primarily U.S. Senators, who
distinguished themselves through acts of political courage. None of the subjects were
portrayed as perfect or beyond reproach. Kennedy showed very strongly, in fact, the
ethical ambivalence of some of the classic figures in American history in this work. The
point he sought to make is not about how heroes were made of different stuff than others.
This book is about how human beings can, in a time of moral crisis, find the courage to
follow their own truth in the face of opposition. This is a work eminently worth reading,
both for