Profiles in Courage was originally published by Harper & Brothers in 1956.
by Charlie Leck
Let’s not get into an argument about whether John F. Kennedy (JFK) really wrote Profiles in Courage. If he didn’t, I believe he was deeply enough involved in its writing that it can still be attributed to him.
That point aside, I awoke this morning at that ungodly hour (4:00 AM) when my wife’s alarm goes off and I realized immediately that I had been dreaming very mildly about Profiles in Courage. Someone had given me the book when I was a teenager and I read it then and then again while JFK was running for the Presidency in 1959.
As Caroline Kennedy explains in a recent reprinting of the book, “My father’s heroes were men and women who were willing to risk their careers to do what was right for our country…. He believed that telling the stories of those who act on principle regardless of the cost can help inspire future generations to follow their example.”
In a foreword to a publication of the book sometime after the original, JFK’s brother, Robert, wrote this: “Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. He sought out those people who had demonstrated in some way… that they had courage, that they would stand up, that they could be counted on.”
Profiles in Courage is about eight U.S. Senators who had the courage to stand up and fight for what was right even though it was not the politically popular thing to do. These were Senators who were willing to cross party lines to do what was right; or they were Senators who defied general public opinion or the specific opinion of their own constituents to do what they felt was right and just.
Perhaps you can see why JFK’s book came to mind. Go searching for such Senators in today’s political moment and you will be hard pressed to find one.
I’m not going to give you a lecture about the Kennedy book. For those of you who are curious, it can be found in a community library and it is a short and easy read. The important thing to remember is that Kennedy was praising courageous Senators who stood up against the tide of popularity and decided they needed to do what was right rather than what party affiliation expected of them.
If you want to do something worthwhile, I suggest you remind your U.S. Senators about the book and suggest they read it thoughtfully. Our Congress needs to find, in these harsh times, legislators with such courage.