Criteria for Judging

Content (55%)

Demonstrated understanding of political courage

  • Demonstrated an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage
  • Identified an act of political courage by a U.S. elected official who served during or after 1917.
  • Proved that the elected official risked his or her career to address an issue at the local, state, national, or international level
  • Explained why the official's course of action best serves or has served the larger public interest
  • Outlined the obstacles, dangers, and pressures the elected official is encountering or has encountered


  • Thoughtful, original choice of a U.S. elected official
  • Story is not widely known, or a well-known story is portrayed in a unique way
  • Essay subject is not on the list of most written about essay subjects.

Supporting Evidence

  • Well-researched
  • Convincing arguments supported with specific examples
  • Critical analysis of acts of political courage

Source Material

  • Bibliography of five or more varied sources
  • Includes primary source material
  • Thoughtfully selected, reliable 

Presentation (45%)

Quality of writing

  • Style, clarity, flow, vocabulary


  • Structure, paragraphing, introduction and conclusion


  • Syntax, grammar, spelling, and punctuation

An essay will be disqualified if:

  • It is not on the topic.
  • The subject is not an elected official.
  • The subject is John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, or Edward M. Kennedy.
  • The subject is a previous Profile in Courage Award recipient unless the essay describes an act of political courage other than the act for which the award was given.
  • The subject is a senator featured in Profiles in Courage.
  • The essay focuses on an act of political courage that occurred prior to 1917.
  • It does not include a minimum of five sources.
  • It is more than 1,000 words or less than 700 words (not including citations and bibliography.)
  • It is postmarked or submitted by email after the deadline.
  • It is not the student’s original work.