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Profiles in Courage (1956)

by John F. Kennedy

Other authors: Alan Nevins (Foreword), Theodore C. Sorensen (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,399253,873 (3.82)59
Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CLASSIC OF POLITICAL INTEGRITY

With a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy and introduction by Caroline Kennedy

John F. Kennedy's enduring classic resounds with timeless lessons on the most cherished of virtuesâ??courage and patriotismâ??and remains a moving, powerful, and relevant testament to the indomitable American spirit

During 1954-55, Kennedy, then a junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, profiled eight American patriots, mainly United States Senators, who at crucial moments in our nation's history, revealed a special sort of greatness: men who disregarded dreadful consequences to their public and private lives to do that one thing which seemed right in itself. They were men of various political and regional allegiancesâ??their one overriding loyalty was to the United States.

Courage such as these men shared, Kennedy makes clear, is central to all moralityâ??a man does what he must in spite of personal consequencesâ??and these exciting stories suggest that, without in the least disparaging the courage with which men die, we should not overlook the true greatness adorning those acts of courage with which men must live.

As Robert F. Kennedy writes in the foreword, Profiles in Courage "is not just stories of the past but a book of hope and confidence for the future. What happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us."

This special "P.S." edition of the book commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication. It includes vintage photographs and an extensive author biography, and features 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 Cour… (more)

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» See also 59 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I never realized this book was about politician who stuck to what they knew was right! That's what happens when you hear about something so much but you never actually think to LOOK at it. A slim volume, all about people (mostly men, consider the times) who voted or stood for something that was basically guaranteed to lose them the next election.

When I finished the book, I wrote to the Library of Congress and nominated Liz Cheney for an award. It is too soon for her, but she spectacularly exemplified an elected official who stood for something all the while knowing it was her death knell. ( )
  kaulsu | Apr 21, 2023 |
This is a book today's politicans need to read. When elected to office, you represent all, not just thoes wuoud pay you to agree with them. No politician should come in poor and leave rich.

FROM JFK PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: John F. Kennedy had long been interested in the topic of political courage, beginning with his senior thesis at Harvard. The thesis, later published as Why England Slept, was a study of the failure of British political leaders in the 1930s to oppose popular resistance to rearming, leaving the country ill-prepared for World War II.

Kennedy’s election to the House in 1946 and the Senate in 1952 gave him personal experience in dealing with the conflicting pressures that legislators face.

When Kennedy took a leave of absence from the Senate in 1954 to recover from back surgery, it gave him the opportunity to study the topic of political courage. The project resulted in the publication of Profiles in Courage, which focuses on the careers of eight United States Senators whom Kennedy felt had shown great courage under enormous pressure from their parties and their constituents.

His own battles with physical pain and his experiences in World War II as a PT boat commander also gave him inspiration. Profiles in Courage, which Kennedy dedicated to his wife Jacqueline Kennedy, received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957. ( )
  Gmomaj | Jan 21, 2023 |
i read this for a high school history or english class. i can't remember which. what i do remember is this being one of the first nonfiction books that i truly enjoyed. since then, the true authorship of this slim little volume has been hotly debated; but the substance remains the same. it's a delightful collection of essays on famous american figures and their contributions to our country's history.

my current copy is from 1964 and in good-enough-to-read-without-the-pages-falling-out condition so i think i'll be rereading it at some point this year!
  cthuwu | Jul 28, 2021 |
This is a reprint of the 1957 mass market paperback edition. Read it in Junior High School (my copy was printed in 1961). It was an inspiring portrait of what political life could be, both in the pressures weighing on those who hold public office, as well as the potential for taking a courageous stand. As far as authorship goes, in the foreword, Kennedy credits Sorensen with research and first drafts, so as far as I'm concerned, Kennedy was transparent about the process by which the book came about. He was personally well-read, with an avid interest in American history, so it's not as if he was trying to claim expertise he did not possess.

A good read. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
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. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John F. Kennedyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nevins, AlanForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sorensen, Theodore C.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Šimsová, MiladaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blahoš, JosefIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dubská, IrenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grut, HaraldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horner, Roy J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, Robert F.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kennedy-Schlossberg, CarolineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sloan, SamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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He well knows what snares are spread about his path, from personal animosity...and possibly from popular delusion. But he has put to hazard his ease, his security, his interest, his power, even his...popularity...He is traduced and abused for his supposed motives. He will remember that obloquy is a necessary ingredient in the composition of all true glory: he will remember...that calumny and abuse are essential parts of triumph...He may live long, he may do much. But here is the summit. He never can exceed what he does this day. -Edmund Burke's eulogy of Charles James Fox for his attack upon the tyranny of the East India Company- House of Commons, December 1, 1783
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To my wife
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This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues—courage.
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Politics. Nonfiction. HTML:

THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING CLASSIC OF POLITICAL INTEGRITY

With a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy and introduction by Caroline Kennedy

John F. Kennedy's enduring classic resounds with timeless lessons on the most cherished of virtuesâ??courage and patriotismâ??and remains a moving, powerful, and relevant testament to the indomitable American spirit

During 1954-55, Kennedy, then a junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, profiled eight American patriots, mainly United States Senators, who at crucial moments in our nation's history, revealed a special sort of greatness: men who disregarded dreadful consequences to their public and private lives to do that one thing which seemed right in itself. They were men of various political and regional allegiancesâ??their one overriding loyalty was to the United States.

Courage such as these men shared, Kennedy makes clear, is central to all moralityâ??a man does what he must in spite of personal consequencesâ??and these exciting stories suggest that, without in the least disparaging the courage with which men die, we should not overlook the true greatness adorning those acts of courage with which men must live.

As Robert F. Kennedy writes in the foreword, Profiles in Courage "is not just stories of the past but a book of hope and confidence for the future. What happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us."

This special "P.S." edition of the book commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication. It includes vintage photographs and an extensive author biography, and features 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 Cour

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