1. To prepare students to research and write an essay to be submitted as part of the Profile in Courage Essay Contest.


  1. Ask students to identify a current elected public official in the United States, who is acting courageously to address a political issue at the local, state, national, or international level. Students should explain the issue thoroughly and identify the obstacles, dangers, and pressures that the official is encountering. Students may also choose to write about an individual elected to public office in the U.S. since 1956 (after the original publication of Profiles in Courage) who has acted courageously to address a contemporary political issue.
  2. You may wish to encourage students to read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy in its entirety and to consult newspapers, periodicals, the Internet, teachers, and elected officials.
  3. You and your students can use the criteria for judging to assess the quality of an essay according to contest standards.


Your essay must meet the Profile in Courage Essay Contest requirements including the following:

  1. The essay should focus on a particular act of political courage by a U.S. elected official that took place during or after 1956 (the publication date of Profiles in Courage.)
  2. You may not choose past Profile in Courage Award recipients as subjects for your essay.
  3. John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy are not eligible subjects for essays.
  4. Your essay should be at least 700 words but no more than 1,000 words.
  5. Use a minimum of five carefully selected sources including primary source material, newspapers, periodicals, books and interviews. Cite your sources used to research your topic throughout your essay using parenthetical notation (footnotes will not be accepted.) Include a bibliography using any one of the recognized formats. You are strongly encouraged to use primary sources.