The Profile in Courage Essay Contest invites United States high school students to consider the concept of political courage by writing an essay on a U.S. elected official who has chosen to do what is right, rather than what is expedient. A “Profile in Courage” essay is a carefully researched recounting of a story: the story of how an elected official risked his or her career to take a stand based on the dictates of the public good, rather than the dictates of polls, interest groups or even constituents. The contest challenges high school students to discover new profiles in courage, and to research and write about acts of political courage that occurred after the 1956 publication of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.

The Profile in Courage Essay Contest meets several Common Core Standards and National Standards in Social Studies and English and offers a meaningful opportunity for students to develop and enhance research, writing and critical thinking skills while they deepen their understanding and appreciation of politics and history.


Students are asked to write an original and creative essay that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. The maximum word count is 1,000 with a minimum of 700, not including citations and bibliography. Use at least five varied sources such as government documents, letters, newspaper articles, books, and/or personal interviews to address the following topic: 

Describe and analyze an act of political courage by a United States elected official that took place during or after 1956. Include an analysis of the obstacles, risks, and consequences associated with the act. The essay may concern an issue at the local, state, national, or international level.

All submissions must adhere to contest requirements.

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The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest is generously supported by:

John Hancock