The inspirational presidency that ended in Dallas a half-century ago lasted just 34 months, and was not nearly long enough to make the mark John F. Kennedy had planned to make. Throughout his political career, President Kennedy motivated the American people to work for the welfare of their communities as well as their country. President Kennedy explained that his book, Profiles in Courage, regards his admiration of the courage shown by certain senators in the face of inimical factions like their electorates, popular opinion, and political committees that attempted to sway the opinions of these men to one favored by a majority. In Profiles in Courage, President Kennedy defined what he believes to be political courage: making decisions without regard of extreme political pressure, making decisions without regard of being liked, and taking action despite fear, not because of it. He wrote: “This is a book about that most admirable of human virtues – courage. ‘Grace under pressure,’ Ernest Hemingway defined it.” (Kennedy 1) In particular, he hoped to restore a sense of gratitude towards politics as a profession that shouldn’t be discouraged. In his book, President Kennedy used the meaningful life stories of senators who he believed has shown political courage, which include John Quincy Adams, Thomas Hart Benton, and Robert A. Taft. Through the stories of these three senators, President Kennedy showed how a politician can show courage by risking their careers in order to fight for a common good, even in times where outcomes rested within their own hands.
Kennedy upheld his promise that he would demonstrate, through specific historical examples, what the meaning of political courage is. To explain this, he showed how John Quincy Adams found the strength to stand up against his own party and people to support an embargo that would hurt his home state of Massachusetts. Adams had a vision for a stronger America, in which every citizen would benefit, and his decisions were made upon what he thought was best for America as a whole, where he showed little regard for his party’s stance on various issues. “--because each one’s need to maintain his own respect for himself was more important to him than his popularity with others.” (Kennedy 218) Furthermore, he would not back away from legislation- such as Jefferson’s proposed embargo against the British in 1807. (Kennedy 30-31) It was this prohibition, in fact, that ultimately led to Adams’ status as an outcast within his own party and state. Upon resigning from his seat in the Senate, he would run for Congress, under two conditions. Firstly, he would not campaign, and secondly, he would be independent, free of party and constituent pressures. Not only did Adams exert grace under pressure, but he made his own decisions without any influence from his own political party. Adams was the one and only Federalist to vote in favor of the Louisiana Purchase, in which the rest of his party was opposed. Adams’ concern for his country showed that he was truly a man of courage, as he did what was right under extreme political pressure.
President Kennedy also praised Thomas Hart Benton and his ability to make moral actions without regard of being liked. Thomas Hart Benton was a Senator from Missouri, a slave state at the time, and was included in Profiles in Courage for his actions in 1847-1849 against John C. Calhoun’s obstinacy to keep Congress from interfering with the introduction of slavery in newly established states. One can imagine the detrimental impact on Benton’s image in Missouri due to his motivation to forbid the introduction of slaves into newer states such as Iowa and Wisconsin. Although born a Southerner, Benton's ideas and values with respect to slavery matched that of a Northerner. “His devotion to the Union was far greater to his devotion of the South or the Democratic Party.” (Kennedy 77) So, it was to no surprise when his