Profiles in Courage

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Profiles in Courage
Cover
AuthorJohn F. Kennedy
SubjectUnited States Senators
GenreBiography
Publication date1955
Pages272
ISBNISBN 978-0-06-095544-1
Preceded byWhy England Slept
Followed byA Nation of Immigrants
 
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Profiles in Courage
Cover
AuthorJohn F. Kennedy
SubjectUnited States Senators
GenreBiography
Publication date1955
Pages272
ISBNISBN 978-0-06-095544-1
Preceded byWhy England Slept
Followed byA Nation of Immigrants

Profiles in Courage is a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate's history. The book profiles senators who crossed party lines and/or defied the opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. It begins with a quote from Edmund Burke on the courage of the English Statesman, Charles James Fox, in his 1783 attack upon the tyranny of the East Indian Company in the House of Commons.[1] The book was widely celebrated and became a best seller. John F. Kennedy is credited as its author, but there are credible allegations that most of it was the work of his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen.

History and background[edit]

Kennedy was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 for the state of Massachusetts. In 1952, he was elected the junior Senator from Massachusetts, and served in the Senate until he was elected president in 1960. It was a passage from Herbert Agar's book The Price of Union about an act of courage by an earlier senator from Massachusetts, John Quincy Adams, that gave Kennedy the idea of writing about senatorial courage. He showed the passage to Sorensen and asked him to see if he could find some more examples. This Sorensen did, and eventually they had enough not just for an article, as Kennedy had originally envisaged, but a book.[2] With help from research assistants and the Library of Congress, Kennedy wrote the book while bedridden during 1954 and 1955, recovering from back surgery.

List of senators profiled[edit]

Reception[edit]

After its release on January 1, 1956, Profiles in Courage became a best seller. Although the book was not nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Kennedy's father Joseph asked columnist Arthur Krock, his political adviser and a longtime member of the prize board, to persuade others to vote for it. Profiles in Courage won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1957.[3]

Profiles in Courage was made into a television series of the same name that aired on the NBC network during the 1964–1965 television season.

Authorship controversy[edit]

Questions have been raised about how much of the book was actually written by Kennedy and how much by his research assistants. On December 7, 1957,[4] journalist Drew Pearson appeared as a guest on the The Mike Wallace Interview and made the following claim live on air: "John F. Kennedy is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him."[5] Wallace replied "You know for a fact, Drew, that the book Profiles in Courage was written for Senator Kennedy ... by someone else?" Pearson responded that he did, and that Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen actually wrote the book. Wallace responded: "And Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for it? And he never acknowledged the fact?" Pearson replied: "No, he has not. You know, there's a little wisecrack around the Senate about Jack ... some of his colleagues say, 'Jack, I wish you had a little less profile and more courage.'"[5]

It was later reported that the statement "she wished that Kennedy had a little less profile and more courage" was actually made by Eleanor Roosevelt [6]

Joseph P. Kennedy saw the broadcast, then called his lawyer, Clark Clifford, yelling: "Sue the bastards for fifty million dollars!"[5] Soon Clifford and Robert Kennedy showed up at ABC and told executives that the Kennedys would sue unless the network issued a full retraction and apology. Mike Wallace and Drew Pearson insisted that the story was true and refused to back off. Nevertheless, ABC made the retraction and apology, which made Wallace furious.[5]

According to The Straight Dope, years later historian Herbert Parmet analyzed the text of Profiles in Courage and wrote in his book The Struggles of John F. Kennedy (1980) that although Kennedy did oversee the production and provided for the direction and message of the book, it was clearly Sorensen who provided most of the work that went into the end product.[7] The thematic essays that comprise the first and last chapters "may be viewed largely as [Kennedy's] own work", however.[3]:401

In May 2008, Sorensen clarified in his autobiography, Counselor, how he collaborated with Kennedy on the book: "While in Washington, I received from Florida almost daily instructions and requests by letter and telephone – books to send, memoranda to draft, sources to check, materials to assemble, and Dictaphone drafts or revisions of early chapters." (Sorensen, p. 146) Sorensen wrote that Kennedy "worked particularly hard and long on the first and last chapters, setting the tone and philosophy of the book" and that "I did a first draft of most chapters" and "helped choose the words of many of its sentences". JFK "publicly acknowledged in his introduction to the book my extensive role in its composition" (p. 147) Sorensen claimed that in May 1957, Kennedy "unexpectedly and generously offered, and I happily accepted, a sum to be spread over several years, that I regarded as more than fair" for his work on the book. Indeed, this supported a long-standing recognition of the collaborative effort that Kennedy and Sorensen had developed since 1953.

Accuracy[edit]

David O. Stewart has questioned the accuracy of the book's chapter on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Of Johnson's defenders in the Senate, Profiles in Courage stated that "Not a single one of them escaped the terrible torture of vicious criticism engendered by their vote to acquit." However, Stewart wrote of the supposed suffering: "It is a myth, ..." and "None was a victim of postimpeachment retribution. Indeed, their careers were not wildly different from those of the thirty-five senators who voted to convict Andrew Johnson ..."[8] There is also significant evidence that Edmund Ross was bribed to vote for Johnson's acquittal,[9] a fact which is not mentioned in Profiles in Courage.

Kennedy also praised Lucius Lamar, who, while working in the public eye towards reconciliation, privately was an instigator of growing racial agitation.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPP-027-003.aspx
  2. ^ Sorensen, Ted; Myers, Joanne J., (May 21, 2008). Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History (Private Lunch), Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.
  3. ^ a b Leamer, Laurence (2001). The Kennedy Men: 1901-1963. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-688-16315-7. :402-403
  4. ^ http://solstice.ischool.utexas.edu/tmwi/index.php/Drew_Pearson
  5. ^ a b c d Walls, p. 34
  6. ^ Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years", David Talbot, New York: Free Press (2007), p36.
  7. ^ Adams, Cecil (November 7, 2003). "Did John F. Kennedy really write "Profiles in Courage?"". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  8. ^ Stewart, David O., (2009). Impeached: the Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy. Simon & Schuster. New York, N.Y. ISBN 978-1-4165-4749-5. Page 308.
  9. ^ Stewart, David O. Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy. Simon & Schuster, 2009, pp.185, 186, 188, 189, 242, 269, 278, 279, 280, 282, 285, 292, 297–99, 309.
  10. ^ Nicholas Lemann, Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann. Farrar, Straus &Giroux. New York, NY. ISBN 978-0-374-53069-3. Pages 205–209.

External links[edit]