The Free and The Brave

The Free and The Brave
Jackie Kennedy: Education, Arts, Letters and Ideas

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: two weeks


Within the first three years of his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Senator John Kennedy had two back surgeries to alleviate chronic pain.  During his convalescence, which lasted up to eight months in bed at one time, Senator Kennedy, with the encouragement of his new wife, wrote the Pulitzer Prize book, Profiles in Courage.  In this text, eight senators are honored for their courage in doing what was right or just, rather than what was politically expedient.   Because he was unable to walk when writing Profiles in Courage, Senator Kennedy relied on Jacqueline Kennedy and others to do necessary research under his direction. 


In this lesson, students will read and analyze Profiles in Courage and upon the completion of reading the book, will write essays for entrance in the annual Profiles in Courage essay contest.

Materials Required:

Kennedy, John F.  Profiles in Courage.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956; access to the Internet.


Each day assign students to research one of the eight senators identified by Senator Kennedy as exemplifying courage: 1) John Quincy Adams, 2) Thomas Hart Benson, 3) Daniel Webster, 4) Sam Houston, 5) Edmund Ross, 6) Lucius Quintus Cincinattus Lamar, 7) George Norris, and 8) Robert Taft.  

Or, together as a class, read Profiles in Courage. 

Once the research or reading of the text is complete, have a class discussion using the following questions:  

1. Why did Senator Kennedy believe [each of the individuals discussed] was courageous?

2. Do you agree with Kennedy that [each of the individuals discussed] was courageous?

3. What characteristics must an individual display to be labeled as courageous?

4. What type of events must occur and what must be at risk for a person to act courageously?  

Once students have compiled a list of characteristics of a courageous individual, have them read the essays of high school students who have won the Profiles in Courage essay contest, if students have access to the Internet.  If students do not have access to the Internet, print, prior to class, some of the essays for students to read.  

Upon completion of reading the winning essays, students will then write an essay about a current politician or another person that they believe is a profile in courage.  Prior to writing these essays, explain the rules of the essay contest, making sure that students understand that if they do not write about a politician they will not be able to enter the official contest.  

If students choose to write about a politician, the web sites below should be helpful in identifying courageous politicians. 

Extending the Lesson:

To extend the lesson, have students find and research individuals who were not European American, male politicians, but who could also be described as a profile in courage.

Sources & Resources:

Kennedy, John F.  Profiles in Courage.  New York: Harper & Brothers, 1956.

Essay contest rules, writing tips, winning former essays, and registration form: 
Lists of Politicians: 
Lists of Famous Individuals Who Were Not Politicians: 

This lesson plan was inspired by Hal Hager (Hal Hager & Associates, Somerville, New Jersey),   

This lesson was adapted by Debra L. Clark, Kent State University.