Lesson 2: Examining Past “Profiles in Courage”


  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, there are chapter summaries on 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 former Congressman Bob Inglis (SC) and former Secretaries of State Debra Bowen (CA) and Jennifer Brunner (OH). Have students apply the questions in the activity above to the stories of the recipients.
  2. 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.