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VINE VOICEon December 30, 2003
"Profiles in Courage" is a rare book - for a number of reasons.

First, of course, is that the author is nothing short of American royalty and the publication of the book in 1956 had an instantaneous impact on Kennedy's political fortunes. In the late 1950s, JFK was a freshman senator without many notable achievements. "Profiles" immediately set him apart from his Congressional colleagues and established him as something of an intellectual heavyweight in Washington and garnered valuable publicity that ultimately vaulted him to the 1960 Democratic nomination and the presidency.

Second, never before has a work of non-fiction been so immediately embroiled in controversy, both because of questions concerning its composition and the fact that it won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for biography. The consensus today -- nearly half-a-century after its publication and after intense scrutiny -- is that the book was essentially written by committee. JFK may have provided the inspiration for the work, but close aide and confidant Ted Sorensen did most of the heavy lifting around research and writing. In other words, Kennedy was more the "editor" than the "author." Indeed, Herbert Parmet investigated the "who wrote Profiles?" question in detail in his 1980 book "Jack: The Struggle of John F. Kennedy" and concluded that there was no evidence from reams of hand-written notes and memos that JFK contributed anything substantial to the final version of the book. This after Kennedy threatened to sue ABC for millions after syndicated columnist Drew Pearson alleged that the book was ghostwritten during a 1957 appearance on the Mike Wallace Show, an allegation ABC was forced to retract. To add to the brouhaha, the Pulitzer committee never officially nominated "Profiles" in 1957, yet somehow it came away with the award. Rumors swirled that Joseph Kennedy - and good friend and New York Times columnist Arthur Krock - leaned on the committee to get JFK the award, but those charges have never been, nor likely ever will be, verified.

Finally, the book is rare and important because of its content and theme. Contrary to other reviews, this book is NOT about "doing the right thing." The author(s) stress that each vignette concerns Senators who deliberately took a stand of conscience, which they knew would be unpopular with their constituents and likely cripple their political careers. Their stories have nothing to do with being right in time. Indeed, was Webster "doing the right thing" when he pursued compromise in 1850, including acceptance of the hated Fugitive Slave Law, which so appalled abolitionist Massachusetts? Was Norris right for scuttling Wilson's attempts to arm the American merchant fleet that was being decimated by German U-Boats before the US entry into the First World War? The central issue is the willingness to accept malicious public abuse, the loss of friends, power, prestige and the sacrifice of future aspirations on an issue of moral conscience, regardless how posterity judges that particular position. Kennedy et.al. demonstrate the admirable virtue of political courage through a collection of historical anecdotes of senators - some legends (Webster) and others forgotten (Ross) - across the expanse of US history.

The profiles are all crisp, lively and engaging (kudos to Sorensen!). Each is inspiring in its own way without resorting to mawkishness sentimentality. However, one should be cautioned from fully embracing each story in its entirety. For instance, the author(s) credit Kansas Senator Edmund G. Ross with single-handedly casting the vote that acquitted Andrew Johnson from impeachment charges in 1868, thus saving the executive from gross encroachment by the legislative branch. Some noted historians of the era, such as Eric Foner, note that there were a number of acquittal votes waiting in the wings to ensure that Johnson was not thrown out of office and that Ross ultimately received a number of patronage posts from the president in return for his vote, therefore undermining the notion in "Profiles" that Ross' actions was purely selfless and in the interest of the nation.

In sum, "Profiles in Courage" is a highly readable collection of anecdotes from Senatorial history with a positive, inspiring theme - regardless who wrote the book.
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on October 19, 2001
"Profiles in Courage" does not belong to any of my preferred genres. I became interested in it after researching John Quincy Adams. The film "Amistad" started me down this path and eventually led to JFK's Pulitzer Prize winning book. It was written while he was still a Senator and focuses, for the most part, on historic politicians. Kennedy obviously admired these men, not for their great successes but for the personal price they all paid as a result of choosing to do what they felt was right.
Each man gets at most a chapter, and so Kennedy limited himself to one or two important events in their political careers, often their last stand. Not only are these men admirable but they are also very real. He manages to show us the human, less than perfect, side of each while convincing us of their moral strength. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know more about these men, who helped to shape American history.
The nice part about the book, and probably the key reason it won a Pulitzer, is that each event reads like a thriller. These are interesting stories and because Kennedy wrote them in chronological order with a few historic segues, the whole thing holds together to give us a better feel for the sweep of history. We willingly learn about the underlying currents that can inexorably drive a country in a certain direction.
"Profiles in Courage," is an easy read that teaches as it entertains. Kennedy seems to be encouraging us to look back at a past where "politician" was not a dirty word and in so doing, we are left with the suspicion that Kennedy himself, was trying to live up to those outmoded ideals. Knowing his fate, every word seems to have a poignant aura that makes it all the more memorable.
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on May 22, 1998
John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book is a must read for all Americans interested in the importance of statesmanship and the courage to place principles above personal profit. Each chapter details the works of a U.S. legislator who made a significant impact on the credibility of the United States Constitution, often putting his or her career on the line to defend the foundations of the American republic. Many of these legislators are rarely spoken of today, but the continuing tradition of the democratic process of this nation owes a deep sense of gratitude to these statesmen.

At a time when many of us are questioning the character and the ambitions of our political leaders, this book is a worthy reminder to us that a few good people can make the difference. This book is timely and pertinent when cyncism abounds in the minds of many voters and taxpayers.
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on January 25, 2000
Joh F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles In Courage is not an in-depth historical text, true, and it should not be read that way. If any reader was and is expecting to find fascinating, long biographies of the eight men in this book, then they should alter their expectations. Rather, readers should use these profiles as a precursor to major biographies that are fatter and thicker with more detail.Whether Kennedy or his speechwriter wrote this book is irrevelent to me, but what he did when he wrote this book was to narrow it down to a very slim margin of what courage is. What is it? How do people -- especially people in politics -- get courage? What circumstance or circumstances in their lives imbued that very important characteristic into their belief system when serving the public at large? What Kennedy does is explore those key moments in the lives of these men that could have been responsible for the attainment of that trait. Kennedy's style of writing is gripping, immediate and has colorful tints of personality to it. For a quick and accurate historical/biographical fix, Profiles in Couage does the job quite nicely.
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on April 11, 2001
The stories of eight men, Senators, whom Kennedy believes showed extraordinary courage in their behaviour at one moment or another in their careers. The one who has always stuck with me over the years since i read this book before is Edmund G. Ross, the man whose uncertain vote was not converted to a vote for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Though he was completely opposed to Johnson and his policy of reconciliation with the South, though he had lead the drive to recall the Senator he replaced, because his predecessor was not harsh enough, though he had every opportunity to defeat Johnson by voting to remove him from office, Ross was, through his integrity, determined to act as an impartial judge in the matter and, convinced that the case had not been proven, he voted for Johnson, providing the one uncertain vote preventing a two-thirds majority. Not one in a hundred, nowadays, has ever heard of him, let alone remembered his name, but Ross acted neither for the present nor posterity, but for his own character and honour. All the others Kennedy wrote of did the same; some in a cause we would consider right, some not, but all concerned that their yea be yea and their nay, nay. Ironies abound here, as in all aspects of Kennedy's life; for as much as he had to do with the production of this Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Kennedy could be proud.
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on August 20, 2006
This is one of the books you always hear about, but never got around to reading. This time, I decided I would take the time to become familiar with it. It had, in 1956, won a Pulitzer Prize. The book was not quite what I had thought it would be.

The foreword and notes on the author gave me a look into the background and life of JFK, which did increase my respect for him I was not aware how much physical pain he lived with. I thought the book would be broader than it was, but the book focuses on acts of political courage when United States Senators made political devastating decisions that destroyed their hopes of either re-election or the Presidency, but were the right decisions as they were long-term and just in their scope.

The senators covered were John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, Sam Houston, Edmund G. Ross, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, George Norris, and Robert A. Taft. He notes that some, like Ross, were incredible men who had a lot to offer, but due to their decision to put the nation and justice first, they have been buried in time. In a final chapter, JFK also mentions some courageous politicians who were not senators.

I am glad I took the time to read the book. Knowing that there were senators who sacrificed their careers for the good of the nation was heartening. I would recommend this book to all students of history and all would-be politicians.
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on December 16, 1999
John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize winning book is a must read for all Americans interested in the importance of statesmanship and the courage to place principles above personal profit. Each chapter details the works of a U.S. legislator who made a significant impact on the credibility of the United States Constitution, often putting his or her career on the line to defend the foundations of the American republic. Many of these legislators are rarely spoken of today, but the continuing tradition of the democratic process of this nation owes a deep sense of gratitude to these statesmen.(p)
At a time when many of us are questioning the character and the ambitions of our political leaders, this book is a worthy reminder to us that a few good people can make the difference. This book is timely and pertinent when cyncism abounds in the minds of many voters and taxpayers.
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on December 7, 2000
JFK's profiles in courage, is simply a look at six differnent senetors who faced tough situations, and made the right choice. This book is about how people can overcome popular opinion and the pressure of their peers to make a desion that they know is right. What JFK points out is that while in hindsight many of these choices that were made by these politicans were very obviously correct, they went aginst overwhelming odds to what was right. If the people examined in this book had lacked this courage, the Lousiana purchace whould still be French, Andrew Johnson would have been expelled from office and congress would have almost totall power over this country.
This is not a book with a lot of brilliant politcal commentary, but a book showing people just what pressures that people who are in high office face, and what characteristics they must have to overcome them. Everyone who votes should have to read this book, just so they can know what courage it has taken to build this country.
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on March 16, 2003
While recuperating in the hospital from a near fatal episode of infection after a surgery, Senator John F. Kennedy took that time to begin writing about U.S. Senators who had exhibited explicit courage at some point in their political careers. This turned into the Pulitzer Prize wining Profiles in Courage. In the book, Kennedy examines eight senators who followed their own convictions and took what they believed to be the right stances on issues while the pressures of their parties, constituents, and career prospects weighed down on them to do otherwise. Robert F. Kennedy has written a forward to this book in which he explains John Kennedy's esteem for the attribute of human courage. In the preface, the former president gives the reader a glimpse of some of the pressures faced by U.S. Senators and the environment in which they work. The men profiled begin with John Quincy Adams and lead up to Robert A. Taft. Profiles in Courage is divided into four parts, each with a brief introduction to "The Time and The Place." One gets a real feel for America through the eyes of these eight senators. This work could be look upon as a history lesson (which it is in part), but the theme that courses through every page is real life accounts of individuals who stand up for their convictions even when the cause seems and really is lost. Flanked by a forward by Robert Kennedy and a brief biography of the president, this edition does take its chance to extol the man John F. Kennedy, but it does not detract from the body of the work itself. While not a book definitive on any subject, Profiles in Courage is a piece of America, and would it behoove any American to read it.
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This work ranks as a first-rate political commentary on the
courageous positions taken by a select group of Americans.
The author cites a number of famous and not so famous
Americans . i.e. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and
Edmund Ross. I was impressed by the character of Edmund Ross
in making a very principled choice in the impeachment proceedings
of President Andrew Johnson. Ross transcended considerable
past disagreements with President Johnson to cast an
impeachment vote effectively retaining the unpopular president.

For the post-Lincoln time period, this act required more
than a modicum of political courage. President Kennedy
presented these stories utilizing a simple belles lettres
style of writing which adds to the thrilling crescendo
built into the book. The work follows the extemporaneous or
impromptu nature of President Kennedy's public speaking.
Accordingly, the authorship is genuine in every sense.

Students of American history will find this work invaluable. In addition, it is written well. The vocabulary is superior as is the sentence construction. Readers would expect this because
President Kennedy was known to be a voracious reader.
The book is required reading on many high school literary lists.

After having read the work, students will have gained a
better perspective on the life and times of the early
American thinkers and politicians.
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