Profiles in Courage Revisited

It has been sixty years now since John Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage.  In it he told a number of stories of what he called political courage.  Stories of political figures who were willing to champion their values even at great political risk.  He wrote about John Quincy Adams, Sam Houston, Daniel Webster and other lesser known men (it was 1957--they were all men.) "A man," he wrote, does what he must--in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressure--and that is the basis of all human morality."

I would suggest that this past week three senators, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, exhibited just the kind of courage Kennedy was talking about.  Whether or not you agree with the position that these three took, you cannot help but admire the fact that each of them, for his or her own reasons, felt compelled to vote contrary to how others thought they should. The political risks were enormous. But each of them acted courageously in the face of enormous pressure.  Each of them acted out of deeply held convictions. 

That is the kind of political leadership we need in this country. Candidates for public office should be willing to articulate their views clearly enough  that voters can make informed choices when it comes to those who will represent them.  And then, liberal or conservative, Democrat, Republican or Independent, our elected leaders should be willing to stand up for what they believe--regardless of labels.  That doesn't mean being unyielding, or unbending--honest compromise is a necessary part of governing.  But it does mean refusing to give in to the kind of pressure we often see being exerted in Washington.

I for one, want a effective government, one that gets things done.  But just as importantly, perhaps more importantly, I want one that is morally sound.  And that takes courage.

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