Critical Overview

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Critical reception of Profiles in Courage was generally favorable although a few critics expressed doubt about Kennedy’s sole authorship. Critics who applauded the book found it to be a work of integrity, honoring political grace in past statesmen while acknowledging that there are contemporary statesmen who exhibit the same strength of character. They were delighted to see a high-profile politician like Kennedy (who was a United States senator at the time of publication) produce such a thought provoking historical review of other senators. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that the text ‘‘is a straight forward discussion of patriots’’ and that the content is ‘‘dry and safe’’ rather than being colored by overt political bias. Critics like Dean Hammer of Journal of American Culture noted that Kennedy’s presentation of these past political figures promoted his own goals while offering a new perspective of government as something formed of individual decisions and actions rather than as a series of mundane processes.

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The value of Profiles in Courage as a historical text has brought it into alignment with other great historical works. In a discussion of the ancient essayist Plutarch and his famous Lives, C. J. Gianakaris of Twayne’s World Authors Series noted that the assembling of ‘‘lives according to a common axis of belief, action, or role remains a valid entry into history today, as witness the great popularity of the late President John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage .’’ Clearly, the members of the Board of Trustees of Columbia University, who decide on the winners of the...

(The entire section contains 415 words.)

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Critical Context


Essays and Criticism