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August 7, 2012


Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Senator John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles In Courage.”  

JFK’s book highlights the stories of eight United States Senators who risked their political careers to pursue justice.

In the introduction to the Memorial Edition, Robert Kennedy writes:

“Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired.  That is why this book so fitted his personality, his beliefs.”


JFK Library Image

The title of Chapter I is Courage & Politics.

JFK continues to discuss the pressures which confront “a (Senator) of conscience.”

He says the decision “at which point & on which issue” that a Senator will risk his career will be “difficult & soul-searching.”

Then JFK discusses the difficulty Senators face on the question of whether they should put the interests of their state & constituency above those of the nation.

He paraphrases Edmund Burke’s* statement that Senators come to Washington…..

“not as hostile ambassadors or special pleaders for our state…..but as members of the deliberative assembly of one nation with one interest.”



Statue of Edmund Burke, Washington, D.C. Photo by Matthew G. Bisanz, 2009

*Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was an Irish born statesman who moved to England where he served in the House of Commons.  In 1774 & 1775, Burke supported the American colonies in their dispute with the King & Parliament.

In regard to party loyalty, JFK quotes Senator Albert Beveridge**:

“A party can live only by growing, intolerance of ideas brings its death….”

**Albert J. Beveridge (1862-1927) was a Republican Senator from Indiana.  He was a graduate of Indiana Asbury University & in the late 19th & early 20th centuries supported American territorial expansion.

JFK goes on to argue that when a Senator disagrees with his party’s position on an issue…… 

“(he) must place 1st the responsibility (he) owe(s) not to (his) party or even to (his) constituents, BUT TO (HIS) INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE.”

Senator Kennedy says that while compromise will be necessary,

“we can compromise our political positions, but not ourselves.  We can resolve the clash of interests without conceding our ideals.”

In closing this introduction, JFK tells us that the Senators he has selected to write about share “one heroic quality–courage.”



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