Recipient of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, Profiles in Courage outlines the service of eight United States senators who distinguished themselves through their integrity and sacrifices for the nation. Written by John F. Kennedy in collaboration with his research assistants and speechwriter Theodore Sorensen, the book focuses primarily on how the eight senators fell out of public popularity because of their upright actions. Highlighting these politicians who crossed party lines or openly defied the opinion of their constituents, Profiles in Courage explores a person’s will to make morally upstanding choices regardless of the consequences. The book remains one of the most widely read about American politics and helped earn Kennedy national recognition that propelled his political career and subsequent presidency.
Profiles in Courage first discusses John Quincy Adams who, as a senator, left the Federalist Party and later became President of the United States. Next, it addresses the actions of Daniel Webster, a prominent supporter of the Compromise of 1850. Another featured senator, Sam Houston, openly opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and was dismissed as Governor of Texas for speaking out against its secession from the Union. The book highlights Lucius Lamar for facing great criticism in his efforts to repair the relationship between the North and South during Reconstruction. He also gained a great deal of opposition for voting against the Bland-Allison Act. Other senators mentioned include Robert A. Taft, who vocally criticized the Nuremberg Trials, and George Norris, who supported democratic candidate Al Smith through his presidential campaign and objected to the U.S. arming commercial ships during the neutral period of World War I.
The book inspired the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, which recognizes public servants displaying a high level of courage and commitment to ethics. Presented by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the private award honors public officials demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice their careers, and even their lives, for the moral betterment of their community, state, or the nation. Picked by the foundation, a neutral committee considers the nominations and selects winners. Recent award recipients include Karen Bass, Darrell Steinberg, Leymah Gbowee and the women of Liberia, and Edward M. Kennedy.
-Dr. Steven Jacobs
Dr. Steven Jacobs regularly engages in a variety of recreational activities, including tennis and baseball, and remains an avid reader. Among a number of favorite books, Dr. Steven Jacobs continues to draw inspiration from Russian author Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, War and Peace. An epic work of historical fiction, War and Peace ranks as a powerful and highly influential literary achievement.
Published in 1869, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace principally depicts the events surrounding Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia. Tolstoy’s novel centers on the actions leading up to the war, as well as the conflict’s profound consequences on Russian Tsarist society. By following the lives of five aristocratic Russian families, War and Peace exhaustively covers the dynamic years between 1805 and 1813. Leo Tolstoy began writing scenes for short stories and other literary works while serving in the Crimean War. As he was composing War and Peace, Tolstoy also dove into extensive research regarding the time period. In his comprehensive efforts to accurately depict the era, Leo Tolstoy read journals, letters, and a host of other historical materials regarding real-life individuals. In fact, approximately 160 people named in War and Peace actually lived.
Originally authored for a popular Russian magazine, War and Peace began as a serial publication. Nonetheless, many scholars have claimed that the novel achieves its greatness in part through its transcendence of genres. Though Tolstoy composed the body of War and Peace in Russian, the French language was also used in parts of the novel. Remaining a popular and influential literary work today, Newsweek magazine rated it among its Top 100 Books of all time.
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