Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (1955)






Profiles in Courages tells the stories of eight United States senators who stood by their principles —  against popular opinion and their own political parties.  For each, their lives as well as their careers were put at serious risk.

This is not an easy read for today’s high school students.  Both the characters and subjects described are now considered “ancient history”, but they are still well worth studying by the modern, serious student of history and ethics.

The eight senators chronicled are:

  1.  John Quincy Adams (Massachusetts) — Strong national government vs strong states
  2. Daniel Webster (Massachusetts) — Slavery issues
  3. Thomas Hart Benton (Missouri) — Slavery issues
  4. Sam Houston (Texas) — Slavery issues
  5. Edmund G. Ross (Kansas) — Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial
  6. Lucius Lamar (Mississippi) — Post-Civil War Reconstruction issues
  7. George Norris (Nebraska) — US neutrality in WW1, and other issues
  8. Robert A. Taft (Ohio) — Legality of portions of the Nuremberg Trials after WW2

Profiles in Courage was written six years before John F. Kennedy became President of the United States of America.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.   Controversy has surrounded this book for decades.  Did Senator Kennedy write it or did his speech-writer, Ted Sorensen?   And did it win the Pulitzer in a fair vote or did Senator Kennedy’s father tip the scales?  These questions might make for some interesting detective work!

The Profile in Courage Award was first awarded in 1990.  The criteria include:

  • Living Americans who are or were elected officials.
  • Individuals at all levels of government—federal, state and local—are eligible for the award.
  • Emphasis will be placed on contemporary acts of political courage.
  • On occasion, in rare and special circumstances, awards have been made to foreign officials.

High School Reading Level, 304 pages, Published in 1955.

About kidsbooksworthreading

Are you looking for Children’s and Young Adult books that have stood the test of time? I have a master of list of over 600 titles to share. I’m an English major, mother of five and homeschooler for 15 years. My purpose with this blog is to share forgotten favorites that most parents today have never heard of, but are so worth reading! I hope you’ll join with me as I share the best that Youth Literature has to offer.
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