Profiles in Courage

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Overview

Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage served as a clarion call to every American. The inspiring true accounts of eight unsung heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading, an instant classic, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Now, a half-century later, it remains a moving, powerful, and relevant testament to the indomitable national spirit and an unparalleled ...

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Overview

Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage served as a clarion call to every American. The inspiring true accounts of eight unsung heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading, an instant classic, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Now, a half-century later, it remains a moving, powerful, and relevant testament to the indomitable national spirit and an unparalleled celebration of that most noble of human virtues.

This special "P.S." edition of Profiles in Courage commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication. Included in this new edition, along with vintage photographs and an extensive author biography, are Kennedy's correspondence about the writing project, contemporary reviews of the book, a letter from Ernest Hemingway, and two rousing speeches from recipients of the Profile in Courage Award.

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Editorial Reviews

Springfield Republican
A book that deserves reading by every American.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060854935
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/11/2006
  • Series: P.S. Series
  • Edition description: 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 56,871
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was president of the United States from 1961 to 1963. At forty-three, he was the youngest man ever elected to the Oval Office and the first Roman Catholic president.

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Read an Excerpt


(From the Epilogue by John Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy) All our lives, people approached us to say, "Your father changed my life." They go on to describe their own commitment to public service, community involvement, and work for social justice 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. Our father often used to say, "One man can make a difference, and every man should try." Of course, this applies to each of us, including women. Many people first learn how this is true by reading this book. The leaders of the past, like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and Edmund G. Ross, have set a shining example for Americans today to live up to.

A few years ago, our family decided that the best way to honor John F, Kennedy would be to honor people who were continuing his work, who shared his vision for our country and his commitment to giving of themselves to make it a better place to live. We created the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to be awarded to elected officials who exemplify the kind of courage he wrote about.

At that time, some people said, "There are no courageous politicians today. You will never find anyone to receive the award." But they were wrong. We have learned that at all levels of government, in all parts of our country, across the political spectrum, they are there. As a society, we need to encourage people to choose public service as a career, and we need to celebrate them for standing on principle.

Interestingly, many of the stories in this book tell 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 we must never stop fighting for what we believe is right. Our 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. Our 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.

Other winners include Congressman Mike Synar and Henry Gonzalez. They battled powerful special interest groups like the gun lobby, the tobacco lobby, and the banking industry, fighting instead for the individual citizens who sent them to Washington. Governor Jim Florio lost his re-election campaign after he passed the nation's toughest gun control law in New Jersey. Governor Lowell Weicker introduced Connecticut's first state income tax in spite of its unpopularity. Long-time teacher and school superintendent Corkin Cherubini won the Profile in Courage Award for fighting against a system which separated children on the basis of race rather than ability, in spite of the fact that his life was threatened by members of his community. Alabama Judge Charles Price was honored for upholding the separation of church and state by ruling that another judge's courtroom display of the ten commandments violated the First Amendment. And, when the armed and dangerous Freemen tried to take over a small Montana community, 1998 Profile in Courage Winner County Attorney Nickolas Murnion stood alone against them, upholding democracy and the rule of law.

Each of these men risked their careers to do what they believed was right, and often they risked their lives. We hope that each person who reads this book and learns about courageous people in public life will realize that when we face a difficult decision which is bound to be unpopular, we are not alone. Each of us must stand up for what we believe in and be willing to take the consequences, if we want to make our country a better place to live.

Excerpted from Profiles In Courage. Reprinted with permission by BD&L.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Foreword
I Courage and politics 1
Pt. 1 The time and the place 23
II John Quincy Adams 29
Pt. 2 The time and the place 51
III Daniel Webster 57
IV Thomas Hart Benton 75
V Sam Houston 93
Pt. 3 The time and the place 111
VI Edmund G. Ross 115
VII Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar 139
Pt. 4 The time and the place 165
VIII George Norris 170
IX Robert A. Taft 193
X Other men of political courage 206
XI The meaning of courage 217
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First Chapter

Profiles in Courage

Chapter One

Courage and Politics

This is a book about that most admirable of human virtues -- courage. "Grace under pressure," Ernest Hemingway defined it. And these are the stories of the pressures experienced by eight United States Senators and the grace with which they endured them -- the risks to their careers, the unpopularity of their courses, the defamation of their characters, and sometimes, but sadly only sometimes, the vindication of their reputations and their principles.

A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or reward that quality in its chosen leaders today -- and in fact we have forgotten. We may remember how John Quincy Adams became President through the political schemes of Henry Clay, but we have forgotten how, as a young man, he gave up a promising Senatorial career to stand by the nation. We may remember Daniel Webster for his subservience to the National Bank throughout much of his career, but we have forgotten his sacrifice for the national good at the close of that career. We do not remember -- and possibly we do not care.

"People don't give a damn," a syndicated columnist told millions of readers not so many years ago, "what the average Senator or Congressman says. The reason they don't care is that they know what you hear in Congress is 99% tripe, ignorance and demagoguery and not to be relied upon ..."

Earlier a member of the Cabinet had recorded in his diary:

While I am reluctant to believe in the total depravity of the Senate, I place but little dependence on the honesty and truthfulness of a large portion of the Senators. A majority of them are small lights, mentally weak, and wholly unfit to be Senators. Some are vulgar demagogues ... some are men of wealth who have purchased their position ... [some are] men of narrow intellect, limited comprehension, and low partisan prejudice ...

And still earlier a member of the Senate itself told his colleagues that "the confidence of the people is departing from us, owing to our unreasonable delays."

The Senate knows that many Americans today share these sentiments. Senators, we hear, must be politicians -- and politicians must be concerned only with winning votes, not with statesmanship or courage. Mothers may still want their favorite sons to grow up to be President, but according to a famous Gallup poll of some years ago, they do not want them to become politicians in the process.

Does this current rash of criticism and disrespect mean the quality of the Senate has declined? Certainly not. For of the three statements quoted above, the first was made in the twentieth century, the second in the nineteenth and the third in the eighteenth (when the first Senate, barely underway, was debating where the Capitol should be located).

Does it mean, then, that the Senate can no longer boast of men of courage?

Walter Lippmann, after nearly half a century of careful observation, rendered in his recent book a harsh judgment both on the politician and the electorate:

With exceptions so rare that they are regarded as miracles and freaks of nature, successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular -- not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately.

I am not so sure, after nearly ten years of living and working in the midst of "successful democratic politicians," that they are all "insecure and intimidated men." I am convinced that the complication of public business and the competition for the public's attention have obscured innumerable acts of political courage -- large and small -- performed almost daily in the Senate Chamber. I am convinced that the decline -- if there has been a decline -- has been less in the Senate than in the public's appreciation of the art of politics, of the nature and necessity for compromise and balance, and of the nature of the Senate as a legislative chamber. And, finally, I am convinced that we have criticized those who have followed the crowdand at the same time criticized those who have defied itbecause we have not fully understood the responsibility of a Senator to his constituents or recognized the difficulty facing a politician conscientiously desiring, in Webster's words, "to push [his] skiff from the shore alone" into a hostile and turbulent sea. Perhaps if the American people more fully comprehended the terrible pressures which discourage acts of political courage, which drive a Senator to abandon or subdue his conscience, then they might be less critical of those who take the easier road -- and more appreciative of those still able to follow the path of courage.

The first pressure to be mentioned is a form of pressure rarely recognized by the general public. Americans want to be liked -- and Senators are no exception. They are by natureand of necessity -- social animals. We enjoy the comradeship and approval of our friends and colleagues. We prefer praise to abuse, popularity to contempt. Realizing that the path of the conscientious insurgent must frequently be a lonely one, we are anxious to get along with our fellow legislators, our fellow members of the club, to abide by the clubhouse rules and patterns, not to pursue a unique and independent course which would embarrass or irritate the other members. We realize, moreover, that our influence in the club -- and the extent to which we can accomplish our objectives and those of our constituents -- are dependent in some measure on the esteem with which we are regarded by other Senators. "The way to get along," I was told when I entered Congress, "is to go along."

Going along means more than just good fellowship -- it includes the use of compromise, the sense of things possible. We should not be too hasty in condemning all compromise as bad morals ...

Profiles in Courage. Copyright © by John F. Kennedy. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 42 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 1, 2011

    interesting account of important historical persons and events

    What is courage? And how does one express it in the political realm? Politicians have a rather bad reputation, and some of it is deserved, but all of it is not. Before he became President, while serving in the United States Senate, John F. Kennedy wrote this book to chronicle the lives of eight United States Senators from history who showed courage by following their consciences in opposition to their party, their section, or even prevailing public opinion. Kennedy does not argue whether they were right or wrong in their beliefs and actions. In fact, some of them took exactly opposition positions on certain issues from others. But what Kennedy wished to emphasize is that we do not necessarily have to agree with people to admire the courage that it took for them to stand up for what they thought was right.
    The list includes John Quincy Adams, later President, who in opposition to his Federalist party voted for the Embargo Bill to keep English ships from attacking American ones; Daniel Webster who set aside his own opposition to slavery to support the Compromise of 1850 which effectively gave the North more time to prepare for the Civil War; Thomas Hart Benton who supported the Union in spite of the fact that his state of Missouri was a slave-holding state and thus helped keep Missouri from seceding; Sam Houston who also supported the Union in spite of the fact that his state of Texas was a slave state and later when it did secede was ousted as governor at the time; Edmund G. Ross who voted not to remove Andrew Johnson from office; Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, a southerner who tried to heal the breach between North and South caused by the Civil War; George W. Norris, a progressive Republican who opposed his party on many issues in the early twentieth century; and Robert A. Taft who objected to the Nuremberg Trials following World War II.
    One may not agree with all the political principles which Kennedy sets forth in the first chapter, but he still makes some interesting and important points. Unfortunately, he includes a number of quotations in which some form of the "d" word is found and the term "God" is used as an interjection. Otherwise, it is an enlightening account of important historical people and events. In the 1960s a television series entitled Profiles in Courage was made, using seven of the eight examples cited by Kennedy (Lamar was excluded, perhaps because he had fought for the South during the Civil War) and adding several others. It's generally conceded today that Kennedy had much to do with the opening and closing chapters of the book, but Dr. Jules Davids and Ted Sorensen, later an assistant to President Kennedy, contributed most of what lies between. It still won a Pulitzer Prize.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2010

    How Inspirational!

    I was sitting in Barnes & Noble, waiting for my friend to arrive. She lives far from me, and B&N is a half-way point for us. Anyway, on my way to the chairs in the back, where I was planning to sit down and read "The Princess Diaries", I saw this book in the little bargain section. I love JFK and I'd heard of the book, so I decided to pick it up and read it instead. I loved every minute of it. I learned about some politicians who I'd never heard of (Ross is a good example), and I couldn't help but feel inspired to always stand up for what I believe in. It also reminded me of the reasons I admire Mr. Kennedy as a president, despite the fact that I'm both 16 and a conservative Republican. The book showed exactly what made him great, and reminded me of all the reasons our country is great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2005

    It's okay

    I listened to this on audio cassette. As I began listening to it, I began to wonder if it would have even gotten published if the author had been John Doe. I did come away from listening to the book admiring President Kennedy's extensive vocabulary. Also, John Jr.'s reading of it seemed to lack spirit. With one exception, I though it was informative but not that interesting. The one part that was extremely interesting was the part about Edmund G. Ross. That section was breathtaking. It was Edmund G. Ross's vote who kept Andrew Johnson in office after Lincoln's assasination. If Senator Ross had voted differently, the politicians who wanted to treat the South as vanquished territories would have been in power. If that had happened, would the United States be what it is today?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2000

    Ghostwritten

    Great book, but very ironic how this book about political integrity was never really written by JFK. It was most likely ghostwritten by his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen. Not to mention all the strings Joe Kennedy pulled to get his boy the Pulitzer...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2013

    The book is quite interesting & absorbing & a solid cont

    The book is quite interesting & absorbing & a solid contribution to American history.  The reason for only 2 stars is that it WAS ghostwritten by Kennedy friend/speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, who admitted as much before he died.  JFK not only accepted the Pulitzer Prize for it, he said nothing about who really wrote it.  Admittedly, he supposedly did give the prize money to charity.  But his own acttions hardly qualify as a "profile in courage".

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  • Posted December 13, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    In our greed based society, these timeless stories of intrepidity need to be introduced to the youth of our country!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2010

    who is the author?

    Hello people, it's 2010 and I cannot believe the Kennedy's are still trying to convince the world that JFK wrote this book. It was written by Ted Sorensen. It was made an instant bestseller because Joseph Kennedy bought thousands of copies. google, google, google.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2010

    Don't Bother

    Greatly over rated. JFK was a horrible writer,and a worse president.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    New Profiles in Courage with Caroline's Forward

    I have loved this book since my first reading sometime in the 60s. It is still just as topical as it was then and always enlightening. You can't read about these men without being inspired. And, of course, the writer is so very inspirational on his own.

    I have the editions with forward by Senator Robert Kennedy as well as the original edition. I have just added this edition to my library of Kennedy books as a very important part of my collection. Caroline's memories and her love for her father, can be heard as she writes. She is an accomplished writer on her own, and adds just the right touch to this edition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    Not what was expected.

    Should have elaborated in depth on family history.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book, By One Of The Greatest Presidents

    This book has inspired me to do more. John F. Kennedys' wrtting is the best. He tells it as it is and, from his own words. This book has helped me alot to think differently brfore joining the Marine Corps.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2008

    Pay no attention to the sophmore review of 1 star

    This book is simply outstanding coming from probably the best speaker of all time, and from a man who never used a tool like a teleprompter. His words can be a little hard to understand, but only because he is a very well educated man, unlike many of the senators and congress persons of today. You will not be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2007

    Not Good At All

    I have to read this book for AP American History and it is aweful. The best part is the two introductions by Caroline Kennedy and Robert Kennedy at the beginning. His sentences are so long and every word in them seems to be overexadgerated. Sort of like he used a thesaurus to upgrade every word. It is almost inpossible to understand and is the dullest book every. Coming from me, this review is a surprise. I have always been a very advanced reader I had a 12th grade reading level in 5th grade, but even I can't understand this. I wouldn't reccomend this book to anyone. save yourself the pain. Coming from JFK, I expected 100% more from this book.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007

    heroes are always needed

    this book is a good survey of heroic minded individuals,like sam houston. although this book was a essentially written by the late arthur schlessinger jr., it is a good read and the introduction by bobby kennedy is noteworthy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2006

    Good Reading

    I think this book should be read by all congressmen and senators so they could learn where their duty resides. An outstanding book by one of history¿s most interesting statesman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2004

    Excellent Book

    Profiles in Courage is a book written by John F. Kennedy that tells stories of political courage by Senators, Congressmen and other political figures in Washington. There are nine main stories of people such as Sam Houston, John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster among others. These are stories of Senators doing what they thought was for the good of the country even if their hometown newspapers bashed them and tried to force the Senator to leave his office. This is an excellent book. Profiles in Courage tells stories many of us have never heard before about prominent historical figures. I think everyone should read this book in his or her lifetime.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2003

    A Truly Inspirational Classic

    A truly inspiring classic that deserves to be read time and again by not only every school child, but by every American. Age has not dimmed it's relevance or appeal. If anything, it has only enhanced it. A must read for any thoughtful person wishing to learn the great lessons of history from the people who made it. A badly needed reminder of ideals in this age of indifference, greedy self interests, and corruption. Every home should have a copy. I have never doubted it came from the pen of one of our greatest and most courageous Presidents. Boring is the one thing it is not.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2003

    The Foreward

    I have not yet completed the book, but the foreward alone is brilliant, inspiring, and shows the true love, respect, and courage of a brother, and a statesman. I am not sure yet that I will like the book, but the foreward alone is fantastic.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    boring, wordy and overated

    My 14 year old had to read this book for school. I encouraged him, saying it was a popular book and after he got into it would love it. I adore all sorts of books. I started reading it and told him I understand his immense dislike of the book. It is boring, wordy, and does nothing to explain true courage. It seems to be a self serving attempt to vindicate politicians. I give it a zero actually. It is all right to admire Kennedy and not admire the book. Perhaps not separating the two is what made some people say they enjoy the book. I am a college graduate with a wide variety of interests and this appealed to none of them. I pity children forced to read it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002

    Great read.

    A great book that depicts many kinds of political heroes and their great feats of Courage.

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