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Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy

Profiles in Courage (1956)

by John F. Kennedy, Alan Nevins (Foreword)

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I read this book at the turn of the millennium. If I remember correctly I tracked it down via the internet, possibly one of the first books I bought on the internet. Then again, I have a memory of talking on my cell phone to a sales representative, specifically asking for a hardback edition, which was successfully fulfilled. When I received the edition, I sat down every day after work for 30 to 45 minutes, reading a chapter or two. I was impressed by the praise JFK laid upon politicians, writers and public figures over the previous century or two, who stood up for their beliefs and did not relent to social norms, or political partisanship. Most of them were not politically successful in their philosophies, yet they stood strong against all those who disagreed and argued for a different direction. Instead of calling them martyrs or misunderstood, he called them courageous. The inspiration that drove him, is the inspiration that often drives me. For this, I am very thankful. ( )
  guhlitz | Nov 22, 2013 |
I found these sketches of courgeous political figures well-done and interesting, whethe JFK wrote them or not. As an Iowan I appreciated James Grimes being recognized as a man of courage--he certainly suffered for being such in his lifetime. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jun 9, 2013 |
I found this book rather interesting given the times we live in today. Much like many books written by famous people today, John McCain, Bethany Frankel, Pamela Anderson or any other person of fame, others write and the star gets the credit. There are those who question whether JFK wrote the book, his name is on the cover and he is credited with being the author.

The book is interesting because unfortunately in our time of partisan politics it is rare when someone bucks the majority and votes their conscience or what the country really needs. We need more politicians who look out for the country first and their narrow minded partisan groups last, right/left, Republican/Democrat, Liberal/Conservative.

A must read for the history major. ( )
  foof2you | Apr 5, 2013 |
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. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Feb 24, 2013 |
I love this book! Very Inspiring! ( )
  zen_923 | Jul 26, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John F. Kennedyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nevins, AlanForewordmain authorall 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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This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues - courage.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060854936, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:47 -0400)

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Describes the courage and conviction demonstrated by eight great patriots at pivotal moments in American history.

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