The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers

Eleanor Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy

Honorable John F. Kennedy
Senate Office Building
Washington DC
My dear boy I only say these things for your own good I have found in lifetime of adversity that when blows are rained on one, it is advisable to turn the other profile.[1]

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt

     [1.] In 1955, John F. Kennedy, with extensive assistance from his aide Theodore Sorensen, wrote Profiles in Courage, a collection of biographical essays detailing the lives of eight members of the United States Senate (John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, Sam Houston, Edmund G. Ross, and Robert A. Taft) who displayed conscience, integrity, and courage in the face of widespread political opposition and popular scorn. JFK, who was halfway through his first term in the Senate, hoped that "a book about the most admirable of human virtues--courage" would not only introduce readers to political icons but also boost his chance for the 1956 vice presidential nomination. The book became an immediate bestseller and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. ER's advice is heavy with irony because she is subtly using the title of his book to indicate that, in her opinion, he lacks courage. As she often told audiences around the country, "I feel that I would hesitate to place the difficult decisions that the next President will have to make with someone who understands what courage is and admires it but had not quite the independence to practice it." [John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955), passim; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965), p. 14.]