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Profiles In Courage – John F. Kennedy

Profiles In Courage — Summary

Profiles In Courage is a collection of short stories about acts of courage in politics. An entire summary of the book would actually be eight different summaries of eight different people. So, I have chosen one of the eight different stories to base this report on. I am going to summarize, quote, and reflect on the story of Edmund G. Ross.

It was 1868 when Edmund G. Ross, a senator from Kansas, had to choose between his career and his conscience. President Andrew Johnson was under impeachment, and the Republican party was determined to force him to resign from the office. Johnson kept vetoing the bills passed by the senate on the grounds that they were unconstitutional. He believed that they were being to harsh on the south. The senate needed two-thirds of the senate to vote guilty on any one of the eleven different Articles of Impeachment. There were fifty-four different senators at that time which meant that a total of thirty-six guilty votes were necessary for a conviction.

It became apparent that the radical Republicans were willing to make the election unfair, if it meant that they would get what they wanted. They already made up for more than two-thirds of the senate, but they weren’t positive that they had all of the necessary votes. Ross was a Republican and his views toward Johnson were mostly negative, but when he was asked about his vote he said he wasn’t going to decide until he had allowed for a fair trial. Ross was the only member of the senate that hadn’t decided yet and, as it turned out, his vote could win the trial for either side. The outcome of the trial was entirely up to Ross.

The Republican party tried everything from threats to bribes to win his vote, but he either ignored or refused all that they could throw at him. Ross remained indifferent through out the entire trial and even right up to the last moment on the day that the senators were to give their decisions. On May 16, 1868, all of the senators and 216 spectators sat down to cast their vote or listen. The votes were cast alphabetically by last name, putting Ross near the end. Twenty-four votes against the president had already been set and eleven more were certain. The entire room fell silent as Ross was asked his vote. He knew that he had the entire country waiting to hear his response, which was, simply, “Not guilty.” The president was safe, and the Republicans were mad.

Kansas was furious that their senator, the man they had trusted to represent their views, had voted to save the president that the majority of them hated so much. Ross knew that he didn’t stand a chance at getting reelected anywhere. He had known well before he voted, but he believe that is was better for him to do what he thought was right, rather that doing what he was expected to do. That was his act of political courage.

Profiles In Courage — Title Significance

John F. Kennedy wrote a book because he wanted to show it’s readers more about the courage involved in politics. He put together a collection of short stories showing courageous acts in the senate. He wrote eight different profiles describing the people that performed these courageous acts. His book was essentially a collection of profiles in courage, eight different profiles that described different courageous acts.

Profiles In Courage — My First Impression of Edmund Ross

Ross makes a courageous name for himself right from the beginning by refusing to convict Johnson unless there was sufficient evidence. His background also suggested that he was a brave man. He Was a General in the Union Army and he had also served in the Kansas Free State Army. Ross devoted a lot of his twenties to helping free slaves and forcing slave holding men out of Kansas. It is no surprise that he turns out to be even more courageous than he is made out to be in the beginning.

Profiles In Courage — How Edmund G. Ross Changed

Edmund Ross suffered as a result of his decision to vote in favor of what he believed was right. He was forced to change professions. His constituents would no longer support him. His party deserted him, and he was publicly attacked by newspapers and angry reporters. His family suffered as well. They were looked down upon as relatives of the political renegade that was Edmund G. Ross. He was now a poverty-stricken target for physical and verbal abuses at the hands of his former friends, voters, and party members.

Profiles In Courage — A Memorable Passage

“In a lonely grave, forgotten and unknown, lies ‘the man who saved a President,’ and as a result may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States—the man who performed in 1868 what one historian has called ‘the most heroic act in American history, incomparably more difficult than any deed of valor upon the field of battle’—but a United States senator whose name no one recalls: Edmund G. Ross of Kansas.” — Page 132

This passage summarizes the effects of Ross’ decision to vote in accordance with his personal beliefs. Ross threw away his career before he had any chance to make something of himself, and as a result he now occupies a lonely, forgotten grave. This is a passage that describes what he did as one of or the most courageous acts in American history, but it more importantly describes the results of his act. He knew what the results would be. I think that his knowing the results is exactly what made what he did courageous, and this passage shows that.

Profiles In Courage — What did I get from this book?

I have never been interested in politics. I have never understood them as a result. This book forced me to learn more about politics in order to understand it. John F. Kennedy also uses a lot of intellectual words that occasionally lost me. I kept a dictionary close by as I read this book, and I know that I have learned a number of new words as a result of reading this book. I think that this book was more of a learning experience than I had expected it to be. It wasn’t a book that I would have been likely to pick up and read simply because I wanted to. It was a book that I would expect to be given as an assignment by my school. Even so, I did benefit from it in at least two ways. First, I now have a somewhat larger vocabulary. Second, I now have a greater appreciation for our government and it’s operation.


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