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Profiles in Courage: Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

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Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage has served as a clarion call to every American. A collection of eight inspiring, unsung, and heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading and an instant classic and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. No Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage has served as a clarion call to every American. A collection of eight inspiring, unsung, and heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading and 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.Along with vintage photographs and an extensive author biography, this book features Kennedy's correspondence about the writing project, contemporary reviews, a letter from Ernest Hemingway, and two rousing speeches from recipients of the Profile in Courage Award.


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Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage has served as a clarion call to every American. A collection of eight inspiring, unsung, and heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading and an instant classic and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. No Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage has served as a clarion call to every American. A collection of eight inspiring, unsung, and heroic acts by American patriots at different junctures in our nation's history, Kennedy's book became required reading and 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.Along with vintage photographs and an extensive author biography, this book features Kennedy's correspondence about the writing project, contemporary reviews, a letter from Ernest Hemingway, and two rousing speeches from recipients of the Profile in Courage Award.

30 review for Profiles in Courage: Deluxe Modern Classic (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Modern American politics is so staggeringly and paralyzingly depressing that this book is refreshing to re-visit. It is important to be reminded that statesmanship, public service and sincere ideology are not just words in history books. Written while John F. Kennedy was a senator himself, this testament of bravery and integrity is inspiring. Partisan politics is to me repellant. However, one of the points made by Kennedy, represented and illustrated on virtually every page, is that American poli Modern American politics is so staggeringly and paralyzingly depressing that this book is refreshing to re-visit. It is important to be reminded that statesmanship, public service and sincere ideology are not just words in history books. Written while John F. Kennedy was a senator himself, this testament of bravery and integrity is inspiring. Partisan politics is to me repellant. However, one of the points made by Kennedy, represented and illustrated on virtually every page, is that American politics have always been ugly. There is no golden era that we can look back to upon which we can cast an idyllic thought. Cronyism, sectionalism, corruption and prioritization of special interests over the national good are unfortunately all more the rule than the exception. The exception, Kennedy describes, is when political leaders take a stand of conscience, often sacrificing political careers and comfortable positions of power to represent an ideal; a great idea that is too frequently politically unpopular. Organized into brief essays on a particular senator and in a pivotal time and place, Kennedy sheds light on political leaders, many of whom have been forgotten by history, who took a stand and demonstrated courage and zeal for principle over more narrow minded and temporal concerns. *Vituperative. I cannot pass this up. I have ran across this word a handful of times over the course of a long career of scholarship and recreational reading, yet this obscure word was written no fewer than a half dozen times by Kennedy in this Pulitzer winning book. Webster defines vituperative as “adjective vi·tu·per·a·tive \vī-ˈtü-p(ə-)rə-tiv, -pə-ˌrā-\ - uttering or given to censure : containing or characterized by verbal abuse”. A defining term that is no doubt well placed in a discourse on American politics. For nay-saying, disenfranchised cynics like me and for the still hopeful, this is recommended reading; especially in today’s fractured political climate. *** 2020 reread – I think this may be an annual re-read for me, always makes me feel hopeful that there are actually politicians who can be courageous and champion a great cause. Written when John F. Kennedy was a freshman senator, he outlines the stories of eight senators in US history who stood for a cause, even when their stance meant going against party instructions or popular support. There are many questions about the accuracy of some of the chapters, historians disagreeing on substantive claims, and also questions about how much of the Pulitzer Prize winning book was actually penned by Kennedy. All that aside, I always enjoy reading and plan to read again.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” ― John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage It is now almost tradition that presidential candidates will publish a book prior to campaigning for the highest elected office. Profiles in Courage, however, was one of the earliest and most successful of these campaign books. While Kennedy largely wrote the beginning and the end of the book, the pr “A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” ― John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage It is now almost tradition that presidential candidates will publish a book prior to campaigning for the highest elected office. Profiles in Courage, however, was one of the earliest and most successful of these campaign books. While Kennedy largely wrote the beginning and the end of the book, the profiles of the senators profiled in this book were largely written by Ted Sorenson. The book also won the Pulitzer Prize, but when viewed objectively is best seen as more hype than history. This doesn't mean the book isn't good and interesting. It certainly was brilliant in providing more light and more prestige on this young Senator from Massachusetts, but it is hard to also take the book completely serious as history. Perhaps, I'm too cynical. Perhaps, I'm too narrow, but it seems more contrived than commendable, more packaged than pleasurable, and more directed at increasing Kennedy's profile than increasing American courage.* * This comes from a comment often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that she wished "Kennedy had a little less profile and more courage".

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    I read this shortly after JFK died. I attended high school in Arlington, Virginia during his presidency, and stood a few hundred yards from his grave site (along with thousands of others) when he was buried. Profiles introduced me to the idea that people, even those in power, make choices. And their choices matter. I didn't know then that it was ghost-written for him by one of his speech writers, but I was immediately aware that the book was written from "an angle", even though I didn't know what I read this shortly after JFK died. I attended high school in Arlington, Virginia during his presidency, and stood a few hundred yards from his grave site (along with thousands of others) when he was buried. Profiles introduced me to the idea that people, even those in power, make choices. And their choices matter. I didn't know then that it was ghost-written for him by one of his speech writers, but I was immediately aware that the book was written from "an angle", even though I didn't know what that angle was. It was my introduction to the intellectual basis of partisan politics. Prior to reading Profiles all my experience with politics had been names, labels and slogans. So, in a manner of speaking, Profiles in Courage was a "coming of age" book for me. While others of my generation got sweating palms over Catcher in the Rye, my spirit was pulled by Profiles and, believe it or not, Lord of the Rings. Both describe making choices and that those choices mattering.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Reese

    "Once upon a time --" yeah, when I look at the cover of Profiles in Courage now, I start thinking about fairy tales. And I cry. Anybody else need a cup of tea and a bedtime story? Once upon a time, "in the room where it happens" (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton), there were officeholders who made "yugely" courageous choices -- John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Edmund G. Ross -- to name a few. They put principle above party, above popularity, above position. Imagine that; believe it, or "fact check "Once upon a time --" yeah, when I look at the cover of Profiles in Courage now, I start thinking about fairy tales. And I cry. Anybody else need a cup of tea and a bedtime story? Once upon a time, "in the room where it happens" (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton), there were officeholders who made "yugely" courageous choices -- John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Edmund G. Ross -- to name a few. They put principle above party, above popularity, above position. Imagine that; believe it, or "fact check" this stuff. Think it's a conspiracy theory? Uh, now might be a good time to stop reading my comments. Fast forward -- and imagine party leaders' unambiguous, unequivocal, unwavering rejection of their uninformed, unscrupulous, "unhinged" nominee for the US Presidency. Pleasant fantasy / fairy tale. Most, of course, chose and keep choosing (post-election) the almost "unimaginable" because their imaginations extend nowhere beyond their offices except, perhaps, to higher offices. Would that a majority of elected officials had the courage of the US Senators written about by then Senator John F. Kennedy! Would that American voters required their representatives to reveal conscience and courage! Would that all of us remember what some of us forgot and some of us never realized: "[I]n a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'holds office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. . . . [W]e will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve" (Kennedy 209). Let's move JFK's gift to us from the fairy-tale shelf back to the nonfiction/history/biography shelf, where it belongs.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Blumenthal

    When I first read it as an impressionable teen, “Profiles In Courage" was an uplifting book, a well-researched, well-written history of 8 Americans of varying political affiliations who demonstrated astounding integrity in their day. But given today's preponderance of craven lockstep loyalty in DC, anybody reading it now might consider it fantasy fiction. I’d write a book called “Profiles in Cowardliness” myself, but who wants to read a 10,000 page book? JFK must be spinning so forcefully in his When I first read it as an impressionable teen, “Profiles In Courage" was an uplifting book, a well-researched, well-written history of 8 Americans of varying political affiliations who demonstrated astounding integrity in their day. But given today's preponderance of craven lockstep loyalty in DC, anybody reading it now might consider it fantasy fiction. I’d write a book called “Profiles in Cowardliness” myself, but who wants to read a 10,000 page book? JFK must be spinning so forcefully in his grave, by now he has probably roto-rootered himself from Arlington National Cemetery to Los Angeles.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    I first read this book in my teens when I was very much a Kennedy admirer. These days, I'm decidedly ambivalent about him and his presidency, and rather emblematic of that is what I've learned of this Pulitzer Prize winning book since first reading it. By all rights, the byline for this book should read Ted Sorenson, not John F. Kennedy. In his autobiography, Counselor, Sorenson admitted what had been rumored for years--that he largely researched and wrote Kennedy's book for him, writing "the fi I first read this book in my teens when I was very much a Kennedy admirer. These days, I'm decidedly ambivalent about him and his presidency, and rather emblematic of that is what I've learned of this Pulitzer Prize winning book since first reading it. By all rights, the byline for this book should read Ted Sorenson, not John F. Kennedy. In his autobiography, Counselor, Sorenson admitted what had been rumored for years--that he largely researched and wrote Kennedy's book for him, writing "the first draft of most chapters." At best, it was a collaboration, but one heavily weighted towards Sorenson. As he explained, "While in Washington, I received from Florida almost daily instructions and requests by letter and telephone – books to send, memoranda to draft, sources to check, materials to assemble, and Dictaphone drafts or revisions of early chapters." So Kennedy did oversee the production, but much of the writing isn't his. Herbert Parmet, a historian who wrote a book on Kennedy, analyzing Profiles in Courage does believe Kennedy largely wrote the opening and closing thematic chapters, and those are I think the parts of the book of enduring historical interest given his presidency. In them Kennedy lays out a philosophy of governance. Elected representatives, Kennedy avers, should not "serve merely as a seismograph to record shifts in popular opinion." I've seen some reviewers lambast that view, claiming that for elected representatives to go against their constituencies, whatever their own views, is undemocratic. Personally, I'd counter that America is not a democracy, not a direct one, and was never designed to be. We're a republic. We elect representatives who are supposed to exercise their best judgement, then defend it to their constituencies who are then free to elect someone else if they don't agree. I'm with Kennedy on that. Kennedy did apparently come up with the idea of the book: stories of eight United States Senators who cast unpopular, potentially career-ending votes. The profiles included some names I think will be familiar to anyone acquainted with American History: John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Sam Houston and Robert Taft. The other names are much more obscure, although I found the story of Edmund G. Ross, who cast the deciding vote not to impeach President Andrew Johnson, the most memorable in the book. (Although not mentioned is that there is considerable evidence Ross was bribed for his vote. But that wouldn't make for a profile of courage, would it?) All in all, I did find the stories entertaining, but insightful, impressive works of history worthy of an award? No. But I think those opening and closing chapters, "Courage in Politics" and "The Meaning of Courage" well worth reading and thinking about for anyone interested in politics, particularly the American system. That's why in my estimation the book is worth a three-star rating, whatever its genesis and flaws.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    Kennedy was, and still is, many things to many people, but one of his aspects that doesn't get as much attention as it should is his writing. Profiles in Courage is a focused review of eight Senators in US history, chronicling instances where that man defied the pressures of various forces - his party, his state legislature, his President, but above all his constituents the American people - in a moment of national crisis, enduring insults from all sides in the conviction that the fevers of the Kennedy was, and still is, many things to many people, but one of his aspects that doesn't get as much attention as it should is his writing. Profiles in Courage is a focused review of eight Senators in US history, chronicling instances where that man defied the pressures of various forces - his party, his state legislature, his President, but above all his constituents the American people - in a moment of national crisis, enduring insults from all sides in the conviction that the fevers of the moment would eventually pass and their lonely stands would be vindicated by history. Now, I personally happen to believe that there are few institutions more contemptible than the Senate, and I think that this prejudice is rightly shared by anyone regardless of partisanship who has paid even a bit of attention to the almost unbelievably corrupt bargains that take place there (see: TARP, the stimulus, health care reform, financial reform), so I was less than thrilled at the prospect of reading a self-congratulatory (Kennedy was a sitting Senator when he wrote the book) paean to one of the sorriest gangs of grandées in history. But by the end of it I was extremely impressed, not only by its scholarship and writing quality, but that Kennedy had actually made me admire some Senators of the United States. The underlying theme is that in order to tell the difference between an actual act of courage and your everyday Lieberman or Collins-ish fit of unprincipled to-thine-own-lobbyist-be-true petulance, the Senator in question has to be acting out of loyalty to both the future of the country, and to their own inner moral voice. This is how Kennedy can group Sam Houston's refusal to vote for Texas to join the Confederacy with George Norris' filibuster of the Armed Ship Bill in the runup to World War 1: in each case, the Senator was confronted with the dilemma of a clash between their own carefully-reasoned personal convictions, and their sense that they should represent the wishes of the people in their states. Kennedy was elected after the passage of the 17th Amendment, and discusses it in the fascinating final chapter, where he raises many good questions: What's the most democratic method to counter the flaws of democracy? When should the need for compromise outweigh the need to take a stand? Does it really serve the national interest to allow one man to obstruct everyone else? Should men subdue their own consciences in the interests of their party and their cause, or vice versa? He also links his notion of political courage to the virtue that everyday normal people would consider courage, thus placing the book a step above a mere political biography. Kennedy's Pulitzer was well-deserved, even if his adviser Ted Sorensen wrote a good deal of it. I'd previously thought that Barack Obama's books were fairly well-written, but this blew them away.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    The perfect book for a poli sci junkie like myself, especially one who's always admired John F Kennedy. Although President Kennedy takes a very small role in the book, the idea that he explores of courage in the life of politics is fascinating. Especially during a time when politicians have taken on such a tarnished image, a brief insight into a few of their lives gives an incredible understanding of the difficulty involved in the positions they hold. I would definitely recommend this book to an The perfect book for a poli sci junkie like myself, especially one who's always admired John F Kennedy. Although President Kennedy takes a very small role in the book, the idea that he explores of courage in the life of politics is fascinating. Especially during a time when politicians have taken on such a tarnished image, a brief insight into a few of their lives gives an incredible understanding of the difficulty involved in the positions they hold. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in US history and/or political science - a fascinating read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I read this book back in the 1960s. I saw this abridged audiobook on Audible and decided to use it for a review of the book. I normally do not like abridged books but I have found them useful as a quick review of a book I had read years ago and want to refresh my memory. This book was written in 1955 about the most admirable of human virtues -courage. The author provided a brief discussion of eight United States Senators in their moment of courage. JFK doesn’t say that each act of courage was suc I read this book back in the 1960s. I saw this abridged audiobook on Audible and decided to use it for a review of the book. I normally do not like abridged books but I have found them useful as a quick review of a book I had read years ago and want to refresh my memory. This book was written in 1955 about the most admirable of human virtues -courage. The author provided a brief discussion of eight United States Senators in their moment of courage. JFK doesn’t say that each act of courage was successful or even right. They acted and stood by their conscience belief of what was best for the country. I was most familiar with the story of John Quincy Adams, but the story of Thomas Hart Benton was unknown to me. The courage of Daniel Webster was remarkable, knowing the stand he took for the country would ruin his political career, but he did it anyway because he believed it was best for the country. The forward was by Carolyn Kennedy. The book won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize. The book was narrated by John F. Kennedy Jr.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sterlingcindysu

    I don't think I could have read this book in high school and had any sense of timing for most of the senators profiled. I lived in Houston for a bit and of course heard about Sam Houston, but I never thought about the Civil War happening on the heels of Texas statehood. I thought the two sections on Presidental sons--John Quincy Adams and Robert Taft were interesting on how they cope with being political families. Kennedy adds the chapter at the end about how the book is about being courageous, I don't think I could have read this book in high school and had any sense of timing for most of the senators profiled. I lived in Houston for a bit and of course heard about Sam Houston, but I never thought about the Civil War happening on the heels of Texas statehood. I thought the two sections on Presidental sons--John Quincy Adams and Robert Taft were interesting on how they cope with being political families. Kennedy adds the chapter at the end about how the book is about being courageous, not necessarily right. Isn't that always the problem? When is it worth it to stick your neck out?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Took me a lifetime of reading history to really appreciate this book. Kennedy wrote so eloquently of individuals who exemplified courage by going against the grain at great risk to their personal security. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut instincts regardless of what others say or do. These Senators were men of tenacity who believed in their personal principles though it cost them dearly in terms of harsh public opinion and damage to their reputations. Fortunately for them, history has Took me a lifetime of reading history to really appreciate this book. Kennedy wrote so eloquently of individuals who exemplified courage by going against the grain at great risk to their personal security. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut instincts regardless of what others say or do. These Senators were men of tenacity who believed in their personal principles though it cost them dearly in terms of harsh public opinion and damage to their reputations. Fortunately for them, history has a way of proving the causes of the just even despite our very human flaws.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ian Hamilton

    I'm deeply ambivalent about this book and confused by its legacy as a classic. I don't claim to be as versed as Kennedy on the antebellum period, but frankly his choices in individuals (i.e. exclusively Congressmen) to profile are at times perplexing. Without singling out certain subjects (because I didn't enjoy this nearly enough to give it a comprehensive review), I fail to see the ways in which some of these man displayed courage and why they should be lauded. This book reiterates that politi I'm deeply ambivalent about this book and confused by its legacy as a classic. I don't claim to be as versed as Kennedy on the antebellum period, but frankly his choices in individuals (i.e. exclusively Congressmen) to profile are at times perplexing. Without singling out certain subjects (because I didn't enjoy this nearly enough to give it a comprehensive review), I fail to see the ways in which some of these man displayed courage and why they should be lauded. This book reiterates that politics is no more than a silly game regardless of the era. Whether bucking or toeing the party line, there's always some motive of hubris involved whether its the individual looking out for him/herself or constituents. I disagree with Kennedy's frequent assertions that these men put the interests of the majority first. Dull read...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I believe I read Kennedy's series of biographies twice: once as a child during his presidency and again after viewing the eight short films based on the book shown in Maine South's American Government class by Mr. Ellenberger (one of those Grinnell graduates on the faculty who influenced my choice of college later). Naturally, I didn't understand it well the first time through, but had become a little know-it-all about American history by the second reading which occurred during the summer at gr I believe I read Kennedy's series of biographies twice: once as a child during his presidency and again after viewing the eight short films based on the book shown in Maine South's American Government class by Mr. Ellenberger (one of those Grinnell graduates on the faculty who influenced my choice of college later). Naturally, I didn't understand it well the first time through, but had become a little know-it-all about American history by the second reading which occurred during the summer at grandmother's cottage in southwestern Michigan.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    The audio book version is neat! Opens with an intro by Caroline Kennedy, then the book is read by JFK Jr and presenting some interesting (and brief) biographies of “courageous” folks then ending with three of JFK’s famous speeches.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    This is a deeply problematic book, and the fact that it is so widely lauded as a classic by many very intelligent people is a sign that our political ideals are based more on the idea of winning some game than of producing the best outcome for our country. Although it's not entirely untrue that some of the senators Kennedy profiled did show enormous courage, this is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. Indeed, a number of the senators in this book have explicitly negative legacies. The This is a deeply problematic book, and the fact that it is so widely lauded as a classic by many very intelligent people is a sign that our political ideals are based more on the idea of winning some game than of producing the best outcome for our country. Although it's not entirely untrue that some of the senators Kennedy profiled did show enormous courage, this is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. Indeed, a number of the senators in this book have explicitly negative legacies. The most egregious is Lucius Lamar, who Kennedy praises for giving a nice speech for his political enemy Charles Sumner (who has much more right to be praised than Lamar does) and for going against the Southern tradition of a senator's vote being dictated by the state legislature, on the issue of free silver. What Kennedy does not mention is Lamar's central role in the fight against abolition and reconstruction in Mississippi -- in fact, Lamar was responsible for the infamous "Mississippi Plan," in which black voters were massacred, terrorized, and kept from the polls to ensure a Democratic victory in the 1875 elections. Whether or not the person responsible for such an egregious violation of democracy (Lamar wrote of the "blackest tyranny" of the "brute masses") was a good orator is beside the point -- it is impossible for a learned observer to call such a person courageous. Of course Kennedy can be somewhat forgiven on this front, because he didn't write the book himself. Instead he gave the task to his speechwriter Thomas Sorenson, who is clearly not invested in the book. The writing is melodramatic and childish, and the sourcing incredibly sloppy (at least for the Lamar chapter, which again is the one I am the most familiar with). I doubt that either Kennedy or Sorenson even knew of Lamar's role in the Mississippi Plan. Nevertheless, we do get some idea of Kennedy's own beliefs filtered through Sorenson -- particularly his fascination with big, aristocratic families and the superior morality of the "genius." There is a distinct anti-democratic strain in this novel, which blames the "masses" for expecting to know better than their educated leaders. That Kennedy's millionaire father bought the Pulitzer (over the Committee's misgivings) just goes to show how deeply the belief in money and genius ran in that family. Falsely attributed, sloppily sourced, and illegitimately awarded -- this book is a prime example of the corrupt, selfish view of politics held by JFK and his father. It suffers, as does the legacy of Kennedy himself, from a sick conception of politics as noble struggle, a Nietzschean proving ground where young aristocrats (like Kennedy and many of the senators mentioned) can get the power and respect they feel like they deserve. Skip this book unless you want an insight into the Kennedy family (who, to be fair, did produce a few genuinely inspiring politicans).

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Corleto-Bales

    A short, moving history of several individuals in the U.S. Senate who defied conventional wisdom and stood out on limb, holding opinions that differed from their party or the general belief of the time due to their integrity. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Lucius Lamar, Edmund G. Ross, George Norris and Robert Taft are the ones that I can think of at the top of my head. Some are well known, like Adams and Webster, but Ross is obscure. He was a Republican senator from Kansas who voted against A short, moving history of several individuals in the U.S. Senate who defied conventional wisdom and stood out on limb, holding opinions that differed from their party or the general belief of the time due to their integrity. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Lucius Lamar, Edmund G. Ross, George Norris and Robert Taft are the ones that I can think of at the top of my head. Some are well known, like Adams and Webster, but Ross is obscure. He was a Republican senator from Kansas who voted against conviction of President Andrew Johnson in his trumped up impeachment trial in 1868 despite offers of bribes and threats of violence. I don't think that just opposing something because you believe that it's the "right" thing is necessarily good. Senator Lieberman opposes the public option, which will alienate him from his colleagues but the result is overwhelmingly bad; these were figures who took stands for constitutional law or compromise in order to avoid disunion, bloodshed or what they considered to be incorrect interpretation of the laws. So, stand fast Attorney General Holder! Prosecute the terrorists in New York City like the Constitution demands! And thank you Congressman Arcuri, for voting for the health care bill despite the district being over 50% Republican. (I almost sent him a copy of "Profiles in Courage" before the vote, but decided I had better read it first. I read part of it when I was a kid.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Byers

    too many slave owners were "courageous".

  18. 4 out of 5

    David Bjelland

    An enjoyable and informative little tour through American legislative history, but for me, one that suffers for the limitations imposed by the running theme of "courage", a virtue I'm personally more hesitant to praise for its own sake than J.F.K. Certainly, it's not presented as an exhaustive work of history, and a major part of the value here is in the editorializing of an author with the same job description as those he's writing about (that, and the fact it's J.F. friggin' K.), but even if w An enjoyable and informative little tour through American legislative history, but for me, one that suffers for the limitations imposed by the running theme of "courage", a virtue I'm personally more hesitant to praise for its own sake than J.F.K. Certainly, it's not presented as an exhaustive work of history, and a major part of the value here is in the editorializing of an author with the same job description as those he's writing about (that, and the fact it's J.F. friggin' K.), but even if we're satisfied with the author's framing of the term, the burden of proof in trying to persuade a reader that a man's (and yes, they're all men) actions constitute "courage" ("noble", "considered", "productive", etc) and not "stubbornness" ("selfish", "unimaginative", just plain "wrong", etc.) is a heavy one. Kennedy does a good job of never over-selling his main thesis, but there were still a distracting number of profiles where I found myself feeling a few necessary facts short of being sold on the flattering portrait being painted. The most glaring example is probably the case of Robert Taft. I'd already had my suspicions aroused from an offhand remark early in the chapter about his father, president #27 - I'm no history buff, but from what I've read on the Pinchot-Ballinger controversy, I was pretty sure the historical consensus was of Taft Sr. as a timid pushover and a traitor to the nascent conservation movement. Instead, Kennedy refers to the incident as a demonstration of "political courage", and the considerable blowback as "political abuse". Huh. Anyway, the courageous deed on display for Robert Taft was his speech at Kenyon College condemning the death sentences recently handed out at the Nuremburg Trials on the grounds that, counter to the whole "Anglo-Saxon" (ugh) spirit of fair and equal treatment under the law, they constituted an ex post facto punishment. Admittedly, my knee-jerk reaction here was to ask, "Is ANY legal principle more sacred than the evil of engineering genocide is obvious?", but, ok, sure; no arguing that the man's got balls of steel when it comes to his faith in literalist interpretations of the constitution I guess. But even THAT amount of respect feels tenuous when we learn later that "...constitutional authorities such as the President of the American Bar Association, the chairman of its Executive Committee and other leading members of the legal profession all deplored his statement and defended the trials as being in accordance with international law." It's places like this that I'd argue the responsible reader has a duty to scrutinize the concept of courage by deferring to facts: Either Taft was right, or his learned opponents were right, or both sides are being reductive and it'd take a half-hour tour through the history of Western law and early 20th century treaties to really explain the merits and holes in each side's arguments. While the substance of those arguments might be outside the scope of the book, it'd at least be reassuring to see the author affirm the central importance of them in determining how history should view his subject. Robert Taft would have been a mean, bitter reptile of a man and a shoddy legal scholar to boot if he'd been so vocal in a stance born of insufficient facts or mental acuity, BUT it turns out he was probably more right than wrong on this one, he might write. Instead, he focuses on the flak Taft receives from public figures clearly more interested in capitalizing on some good old fashioned moral theater than engaging with his arguments, accidentally lending just a pinch of martyr narrative to a historical episode that I'd argue is really only meaningful as a disinterested question of policy. Taking a step back: I think it's important to distinguish between instances like Taft's above from most of the policy questions covered by the book. Some, like the Nuremberg Trials question, have an element of morality, but ultimately boil down to making a present-tense interpretation of existing facts; it's far from black and white, but the key thing is that all the facts are AVAILABLE to everyone, and they're not changing. These can be hard problems, but they're in an easier class than many of the ones the senators in this book were tasked with addressing. To me, "courage" is valuable precisely because it's a tool that still operates in the murky, wild territory where more rigorous forms of ethics fail. When you're tasked with the mathematically impossible task of weighing a present evil with a theoretically-knowable magnitude - say, slavery - against a possible outcome that's certainly evil but unknowable in its magnitude - say, a war to preserve the union - there's simply nothing else to fall back on, right? Kennedy never confronts head-on the question of whether courage is intrinsically "good" or merely "admirable", but if pressed, I get the sense from this book that he'd admit that it comes down to something like a twist on the Churchill quote: "Courage in one's own convictions is the worst form of decision making for uncertain ethical calculations about the future, except for all those other factors that have been tried from time to time"

  19. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    As a history buff, I had learned most of this material before, but not all of it, and certainly none of it from a writer with the passion of JFK. My favorite paragraph in the entire book is the one reminding us that JFK loved the Dante quote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”

  20. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Harpold

    I feel like this is one of those books that everyone should read. It really shows the importance of having a strong sense of integrity. You never know what you might accomplish by standing firm to your values and ideals. It was interesting to read this during our current political climate. I have a new sense of hope that there are public servants out there who can be bold and stand for the changes we need.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    If you ever come across this book in a store, library, or your grandmother's shelf (like I did), then please PLEASE, if you do nothing else, sit down, take a half hour of your time, and read the first and last chapters of this book. Those chapters aren't the specific "profiles in courage" for which this book was named--and don't get me wrong, those are great--but they are on a whole different par of excellence. Man could Kennedy turn a phrase. For example (taken from the last chapter): "Must men If you ever come across this book in a store, library, or your grandmother's shelf (like I did), then please PLEASE, if you do nothing else, sit down, take a half hour of your time, and read the first and last chapters of this book. Those chapters aren't the specific "profiles in courage" for which this book was named--and don't get me wrong, those are great--but they are on a whole different par of excellence. Man could Kennedy turn a phrase. For example (taken from the last chapter): "Must men conscientiously risk their careers only for principles which hindsight declares to be correct, in order for posterity to honor them for their valor? I think not. Surely in the United States of America, where brother once fought against brother, we did not judge a man's bravery under fire by examining the banner under which he fought?" Or this from the first chapter: "Compromise need not mean cowardice. Indeed it is frequently the compromisers or conciliators who are faced with the severest tests of political courage as they oppose the extremist views of their constituents." I can't believe I hadn't heard of this book until I found it at my grandmother's house, collecting dust up in my mom's and aunts' old room (fun fact: my copy is so old, the author is listed as "Senator John F. Kennedy." Yeah, I know). Fans of history, politics, or non-fiction in general should all pick this up. It's a fascinating look at a fascinating man, writing about fascinating men. Can you believe he wrote this while in a hospital recovering from a war wound he got while fighting in World War II? He officially just become one of my role models, both as a writer and as a person.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kecia

    I was in Dallas that fateful November day in '63. I was six weeks old and my mother was with me at the Safeway. When she heard the news she abandoned her shopping cart and went straight home. I grew up in the shadow of the events of that day...and somehow I was never made aware of this remarkable book until recently! Why was this not required reading at my high school or even at Texas State? History comes alive in these pages. Character is revealed. It speaks to what it means to be an American o I was in Dallas that fateful November day in '63. I was six weeks old and my mother was with me at the Safeway. When she heard the news she abandoned her shopping cart and went straight home. I grew up in the shadow of the events of that day...and somehow I was never made aware of this remarkable book until recently! Why was this not required reading at my high school or even at Texas State? History comes alive in these pages. Character is revealed. It speaks to what it means to be an American of what it means to take a stand. Being a native of Texas I assumed that the chapter on Sam Houston would be my favorite. Instead, Edmund Ross and Robert Taft were my favorites. I think I liked them because they spoke to issues so much in the minds of Americans in 2009. Ed Ross spoke to the balance of power. Bob Taft to how to treat the "worst of the worst" and still uphold our values. I understand now how this book influenced President Obama's thinking. I was surprised to learn, and I should not have been sursprised, that Ted Sorenson was the writer. JFK directed the ideas but Sorenson, a Unitarian Universalist like myself, gave it voice. Good choice Mr. President, good choice.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    In this book President Kennedy profiles eight Senators, and their courage to stand up for their beliefs despite voting against the wishes of their constituents. Most of these men lost their seats in the Senate because of their choices. The book is a testament to me that Providence will guide the man that will save the nation into a position to do so. All of these men's decisions were pivital in the course of our nation. A few of the chapters get bogged down, others, like the one on Sam Houston a In this book President Kennedy profiles eight Senators, and their courage to stand up for their beliefs despite voting against the wishes of their constituents. Most of these men lost their seats in the Senate because of their choices. The book is a testament to me that Providence will guide the man that will save the nation into a position to do so. All of these men's decisions were pivital in the course of our nation. A few of the chapters get bogged down, others, like the one on Sam Houston are quite engaging. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. Here is my favorite quote: "For, in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'holds office'; every one of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sam Marshall

    JFK certainly knew courage on the battlefield. However, his notion of courage off the battlefield is somewhat surprising. In particular, his profile of Robert A. Taft is unappealing. JFK found courage in Taft from Taft's recognition that trying Nazis for warcrimes was unconstitutional because the constitution says that no one can be tried for an ex post facto law (a law that did not exist at the time that the crime was committed). Abiding by the law to the T like that is akin to sentencing the p JFK certainly knew courage on the battlefield. However, his notion of courage off the battlefield is somewhat surprising. In particular, his profile of Robert A. Taft is unappealing. JFK found courage in Taft from Taft's recognition that trying Nazis for warcrimes was unconstitutional because the constitution says that no one can be tried for an ex post facto law (a law that did not exist at the time that the crime was committed). Abiding by the law to the T like that is akin to sentencing the poor man who stole the medicine that his wive needed to survive. What Taft did was not courageous. He merely demonstrated that he had no moral compass and was incapable of making hard decisions. His political career deserved to end after that.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Miller

    Published in 1956, the future President Kennedy outlined stories of political bravery. Most of the stories feature lesser known political figures that went against popular opinion, crossed the aisle, and/or held to their principles. Few of them would be known to people today, but Kennedy was a student of history. Knowing a bit about the Kennedys, and seeing when this was published, I have to think at least some of the stories were strategically chosen to appeal to certain locales. Now, 62 years Published in 1956, the future President Kennedy outlined stories of political bravery. Most of the stories feature lesser known political figures that went against popular opinion, crossed the aisle, and/or held to their principles. Few of them would be known to people today, but Kennedy was a student of history. Knowing a bit about the Kennedys, and seeing when this was published, I have to think at least some of the stories were strategically chosen to appeal to certain locales. Now, 62 years on, it's a history piece on two levels.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Ok, I think this book is a must read before anyone should have the right to vote. It really opened my eyes to see the political courage could come from sticking to your principles AND from changing your mind; from sticking with your party AND from breaking with it. It is a great US history and civics lesson and I wish people would keep the lessons of this book in mind when droning on about political blather of today's world.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Having been a fan of JFK since I was 5, this was a reread for me. The book's stories of political courage are important to call attention to in our age of strong political polarities. I will sending a copy of this to our senators for Christmas to remind them not to strictly and blindly follow party lines or submit to constituent pressure but to examine issues thoughtfully and cast their vote with the long term interests of mankind foremost in their hearts.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mahlon

    I rarely buy abridged audiobooks, but this one was too special to pass up. Introduction by Caroline Kennedy, narrated by JFK JR. Still a must read 60 years after its first publication.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Minglu Jiang

    I'm not exactly sure what to rate this. It's an interesting enough read, though a bit confusing at times. (It seems to expect one to just know what certain bills and laws were.) Otherwise, the stories were easy to follow--after you slog through the introduction. I won't say that I agree with Kennedy's/his ghostwriter's choices on these courageous men. They were certainly politically courageous, but their actions were a bit... questionable. This mostly pertains to Kennedy's/his ghostwriter's anal I'm not exactly sure what to rate this. It's an interesting enough read, though a bit confusing at times. (It seems to expect one to just know what certain bills and laws were.) Otherwise, the stories were easy to follow--after you slog through the introduction. I won't say that I agree with Kennedy's/his ghostwriter's choices on these courageous men. They were certainly politically courageous, but their actions were a bit... questionable. This mostly pertains to Kennedy's/his ghostwriter's analysis of Robert A. Taft's criticism of the Nuremberg Trials. It was nice reading about them, though, as I have never heard any of these courageous men's names besides those of John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster. With the latter two, I did not know of the acts presented in this book. If anything, I was certainly enlightened on much of this "hidden" history, as well as the role of individual senators in lawmaking. I say this tentatively with the knowledge that many of the senators profiled here were not exactly angels. Many were slave owners or have other charges to their name, such as fighting for the Confederacy as Lucius Lamar did. Profiles in Courage is inspiring in that it shows that even though these senators were abused both verbally and physically for their acts, they did not suffer in vain. Whatever it was that they did, it had lasting effects on politics and the nation as a whole, whether those effects occurred in their lifetimes or not.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Porter Broyles

    Some books are a part of history, this is such a book. Writtten in the early 1950s, this book was written, won a Pulitzer, and helped propell JFK to the Presidency. The only problem with that narrative is that the book was likely written by Kennedy's speech writer and won the Pulitzer not due to the merits of the book, but rather the power of the Joe Kennedy fortune. The challenge with reading a history book like this 60 years after it was written is: a. Academic standards were nothing like they ar Some books are a part of history, this is such a book. Writtten in the early 1950s, this book was written, won a Pulitzer, and helped propell JFK to the Presidency. The only problem with that narrative is that the book was likely written by Kennedy's speech writer and won the Pulitzer not due to the merits of the book, but rather the power of the Joe Kennedy fortune. The challenge with reading a history book like this 60 years after it was written is: a. Academic standards were nothing like they are today. b. The stories told in the book are common knowledge in history today---but were they well known in the 1950s? Was this book the book that made them well known today? I can't answer those questions. That being said, the book didn't really offer much new or novel insights into the subjects---but again, did it do so in th 50s? As far as writing is concerned, did it deserve a Pulitzer Prize? Again, I can't really answer that. If it was nominated today, there is no way it would win. But 60 years ago? That being said, this book is a part of history.

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