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Profiles in Courage

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  11,522 ratings  ·  790 reviews
The Pulitzer Prize winning classic by President John F. Kennedy, with an introduction by Caroline Kennedy and a foreword by Robert F. Kennedy.

Written in 1955 by the then junior senator from the state of Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage serves as a clarion call to every American.

In this book Kennedy chose eight of his historical colleagues to profile for
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published March 18th 2003 by Harper (first published 1955)
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Dev Goswami Its a mistake, Alphonso Taft began Yale in 1829 and didn't finish till 1832. In the old days, it was possible to take the bar without legal course wor…moreIts a mistake, Alphonso Taft began Yale in 1829 and didn't finish till 1832. In the old days, it was possible to take the bar without legal course work but this was probably a misprint and should read 1840. Good eye. (less)

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Aug 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Modern American politics is so staggeringly and paralyzingly depressing that this book is refreshing to re-visit. It is important to be reminded that statesmanship, public service and sincere ideology are not just words in history books.

Written while John F. Kennedy was a senator himself, this testament of bravery and integrity is inspiring.

Partisan politics is to me repellant. However, one of the points made by Kennedy, represented and illustrated on virtually every page, is that American poli
Jan 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
“A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.”
― John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage


It is now almost tradition that presidential candidates will publish a book prior to campaigning for the highest elected office. Profiles in Courage, however, was one of the earliest and most successful of these campaign books. While Kennedy largely wrote the beginning and the end of the book, the pr
Jay Schutt
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One man with courage is a majority." - President Andrew Jackson

This book is primarily about eight U.S. Senators, from John Quincy Adams (D/R) serving 1803-1808 to Robert A. Taft (R) serving 1939-1953.
Men who, with the risk of their own personal condemnation and defying the odds, would vote on or back issues with good conscience and conviction for what they thought was the betterment of our nation.
A nice political read without all of the drama of today.
Nov 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I read this shortly after JFK died. I attended high school in Arlington, Virginia during his presidency, and stood a few hundred yards from his grave site (along with thousands of others) when he was buried.

Profiles introduced me to the idea that people, even those in power, make choices. And their choices matter.

I didn't know then that it was ghost-written for him by one of his speech writers, but I was immediately aware that the book was written from "an angle", even though I didn't know what
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Once upon a time --" yeah, when I look at the cover of Profiles in Courage now, I start thinking about fairy tales. And I cry. Anybody else need a cup of tea and a bedtime story? Once upon a time, "in the room where it happens" (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton), there were officeholders who made "yugely" courageous choices -- John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Edmund G. Ross -- to name a few. They put principle above party, above popularity, above position. Imagine that; believe it, or "fact check ...more
John Blumenthal
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When I first read it as an impressionable teen, “Profiles In Courage" was an uplifting book, a well-researched, well-written history of 8 Americans of varying political affiliations who demonstrated astounding integrity in their day. But given today's preponderance of craven lockstep loyalty in DC, anybody reading it now might consider it fantasy fiction.

I’d write a book called “Profiles in Cowardliness” myself, but who wants to read a 10,000 page book?

JFK must be spinning so forcefully in his
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - History
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 fi ...more
Aaron Arnold
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The perfect book for a poli sci junkie like myself, especially one who's always admired John F Kennedy. Although President Kennedy takes a very small role in the book, the idea that he explores of courage in the life of politics is fascinating. Especially during a time when politicians have taken on such a tarnished image, a brief insight into a few of their lives gives an incredible understanding of the difficulty involved in the positions they hold. I would definitely recommend this book to an ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, i-own-it
Took me a lifetime of reading history to really appreciate this book. Kennedy wrote so eloquently of individuals who exemplified courage by going against the grain at great risk to their personal security. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut instincts regardless of what others say or do. These Senators were men of tenacity who believed in their personal principles though it cost them dearly in terms of harsh public opinion and damage to their reputations. Fortunately for them, history has ...more
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book back in the 1960s. I saw this abridged audiobook on Audible and decided to use it for a review of the book. I normally do not like abridged books but I have found them useful as a quick review of a book I had read years ago and want to refresh my memory.

This book was written in 1955 about the most admirable of human virtues -courage. The author provided a brief discussion of eight United States Senators in their moment of courage. JFK doesn’t say that each act of courage was suc
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I could have read this book in high school and had any sense of timing for most of the senators profiled. I lived in Houston for a bit and of course heard about Sam Houston, but I never thought about the Civil War happening on the heels of Texas statehood. I thought the two sections on Presidental sons--John Quincy Adams and Robert Taft were interesting on how they cope with being political families. Kennedy adds the chapter at the end about how the book is about being courageous, ...more
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
This is a deeply problematic book, and the fact that it is so widely lauded as a classic by many very intelligent people is a sign that our political ideals are based more on the idea of winning some game than of producing the best outcome for our country. Although it's not entirely untrue that some of the senators Kennedy profiled did show enormous courage, this is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. Indeed, a number of the senators in this book have explicitly negative legacies. The ...more
Ian Hamilton
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm deeply ambivalent about this book and confused by its legacy as a classic. I don't claim to be as versed as Kennedy on the antebellum period, but frankly his choices in individuals (i.e. exclusively Congressmen) to profile are at times perplexing. Without singling out certain subjects (because I didn't enjoy this nearly enough to give it a comprehensive review), I fail to see the ways in which some of these man displayed courage and why they should be lauded. This book reiterates that politi ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kennedy fans
Recommended to Erik by: David Ellenberger
Shelves: biography
I believe I read Kennedy's series of biographies twice: once as a child during his presidency and again after viewing the eight short films based on the book shown in Maine South's American Government class by Mr. Ellenberger (one of those Grinnell graduates on the faculty who influenced my choice of college later). Naturally, I didn't understand it well the first time through, but had become a little know-it-all about American history by the second reading which occurred during the summer at gr ...more
David Bjelland
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, essays
An enjoyable and informative little tour through American legislative history, but for me, one that suffers for the limitations imposed by the running theme of "courage", a virtue I'm personally more hesitant to praise for its own sake than J.F.K. Certainly, it's not presented as an exhaustive work of history, and a major part of the value here is in the editorializing of an author with the same job description as those he's writing about (that, and the fact it's J.F. friggin' K.), but even if w ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The audio book version is neat! Opens with an intro by Caroline Kennedy, then the book is read by JFK Jr and presenting some interesting (and brief) biographies of “courageous” folks then ending with three of JFK’s famous speeches.
David Corleto-Bales
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A short, moving history of several individuals in the U.S. Senate who defied conventional wisdom and stood out on limb, holding opinions that differed from their party or the general belief of the time due to their integrity. John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Lucius Lamar, Edmund G. Ross, George Norris and Robert Taft are the ones that I can think of at the top of my head. Some are well known, like Adams and Webster, but Ross is obscure. He was a Republican senator from Kansas who voted against ...more
R.K. Byers
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
too many slave owners were "courageous". ...more
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting stroll through America’s past to look at moments of courage, Profiles in Courage is a valuable resource for demonstrations of political independence, primarily by US Senators.

It begins in a less-than-captivating manner, as its introductory chapter reads like a textbook, and the pages of this particular illustrated edition have the unfortunate bonus of also looking like one. The middle chapters with the individual profiles are more gripping, as they dive into particular moments wh
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a history buff, I had learned most of this material before, but not all of it, and certainly none of it from a writer with the passion of JFK. My favorite paragraph in the entire book is the one reminding us that JFK loved the Dante quote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”
Catherine Harpold
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I feel like this is one of those books that everyone should read. It really shows the importance of having a strong sense of integrity. You never know what you might accomplish by standing firm to your values and ideals. It was interesting to read this during our current political climate. I have a new sense of hope that there are public servants out there who can be bold and stand for the changes we need.
Jul 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you ever come across this book in a store, library, or your grandmother's shelf (like I did), then please PLEASE, if you do nothing else, sit down, take a half hour of your time, and read the first and last chapters of this book. Those chapters aren't the specific "profiles in courage" for which this book was named--and don't get me wrong, those are great--but they are on a whole different par of excellence. Man could Kennedy turn a phrase. For example (taken from the last chapter):

"Must men
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Americans
I was in Dallas that fateful November day in '63. I was six weeks old and my mother was with me at the Safeway. When she heard the news she abandoned her shopping cart and went straight home. I grew up in the shadow of the events of that day...and somehow I was never made aware of this remarkable book until recently!

Why was this not required reading at my high school or even at Texas State? History comes alive in these pages. Character is revealed. It speaks to what it means to be an American o
Dec 12, 2009 rated it liked it
In this book President Kennedy profiles eight Senators, and their courage to stand up for their beliefs despite voting against the wishes of their constituents. Most of these men lost their seats in the Senate because of their choices. The book is a testament to me that Providence will guide the man that will save the nation into a position to do so. All of these men's decisions were pivital in the course of our nation. A few of the chapters get bogged down, others, like the one on Sam Houston a ...more
Sam Marshall
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, biography
JFK certainly knew courage on the battlefield. However, his notion of courage off the battlefield is somewhat surprising. In particular, his profile of Robert A. Taft is unappealing. JFK found courage in Taft from Taft's recognition that trying Nazis for warcrimes was unconstitutional because the constitution says that no one can be tried for an ex post facto law (a law that did not exist at the time that the crime was committed). Abiding by the law to the T like that is akin to sentencing the p ...more
Kristy Miller
Published in 1956, the future President Kennedy outlined stories of political bravery. Most of the stories feature lesser known political figures that went against popular opinion, crossed the aisle, and/or held to their principles. Few of them would be known to people today, but Kennedy was a student of history. Knowing a bit about the Kennedys, and seeing when this was published, I have to think at least some of the stories were strategically chosen to appeal to certain locales. Now, 62 years ...more
Oct 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who votes
Ok, I think this book is a must read before anyone should have the right to vote. It really opened my eyes to see the political courage could come from sticking to your principles AND from changing your mind; from sticking with your party AND from breaking with it. It is a great US history and civics lesson and I wish people would keep the lessons of this book in mind when droning on about political blather of today's world. ...more
Mary & Tom
Nov 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Having been a fan of JFK since I was 5, this was a reread for me. The book's stories of political courage are important to call attention to in our age of strong political polarities. I will sending a copy of this to our senators for Christmas to remind them not to strictly and blindly follow party lines or submit to constituent pressure but to examine issues thoughtfully and cast their vote with the long term interests of mankind foremost in their hearts. ...more
Jim Zubricky
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Profiles" is a book that always stays with me - when the going gets tough in life, I get inspiration to never give up the good fight from this book. ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy, often referred to by his initials JFK, was the thirty-fifth President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.

After Kennedy's military service as commander of the Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II in the South Pacific, his aspirations tu

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