1. To examine and discuss past "profiles in courage."
  2. To apply this concept of political courage to a contemporary or historical person and issue when writing his/her essay.


  1. Ask students to choose (or assign students) to read one of the eight chapters profiling a U.S. Senator in John F. Kennedy's book Profiles in Courage. Alternatively, you may have students read a chapter summary on Robert A. Taft or Daniel Webster. To read a brief synopsis of each chapter, refer to the Profiles in Courage page.
  2. Have students answer the following questions:
    • How were this individual's actions/decisions courageous?
    • What obstacles, dangers, or pressures did this individual encounter? 
    • Do you believe this individual's course of action best served the larger public interest? Why or why not?
    • Does this individual exemplify political courage in your opinion?


  1. Have students research past Profile in Courage Award recipients such as Cindy Watson and Dean Koldenhoven. Have students apply the questions in the activity above to the stories of the recipients.
  2. Profiles in Courage for Our Time, edited by Caroline Kennedy, tells the stories of Profile in Courage Award recipients. Students may read these essays to learn more about current elected officials who have demonstrated political courage. Note: some recipients are not U.S. elected officials.
  3. You may wish to invite an elected official into the classroom to have students interview her/him about her/his job, its rewards and challenges, and why she/he chose politics. Or you may wish to conduct a phone interview of an elected official in the community if a personal visit is not possible.

What is Political Courage?

Click here for full version.