Profiles in Courage Background

Profiles in Courage Background

John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States and served that role until his assassination in November 1963. However, few know of his political background prior to his time in office. Before becoming president, Kennedy represented the state of Massachusetts in the House of Representatives and subsequently acted as Senator. In 1954, Kennedy was forced to take a leave of absence from the Senate to recuperate from a back surgery. It was during this time that JFK took the time to craft Profiles in Courage.

Kennedy was inspired to write Profiles in Courage after reading The Price of Union by Herbert Agar, which praised senator John Quincy Adams for his assertiveness in the face of adversity. Thus, Kennedy commenced to write profiles of seven other U.S. senators throughout history who epitomize integrity and courage: Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, Sam Houston, Edmund G. Ross, Lucius Lamar, George Norris, and Robert A. Taft. He spent the years of 1954 and 1955 researching and writing this autobiography while bedridden due to his surgery.

Profiles in Courage received considerable praise from critics and audiences. It was an instant bestseller and ultimately won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Despite all of his successes, Kennedy received a great deal of backlash as numerous researchers and writers assisted him in the making of the book. Columnist Drew Pearson stated on The Mike Wallace Interview that "John F. Kennedy is the only man in history who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him." To this day, no one knows exactly how much JFK actually contributed to Profiles in Courage, but credit is often granted to his speechwriter and adviser Ted Sorensen.

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