May the new leader of the Philippines, R Dutarte, be brave, righteous and courageous to seek truth and bring prosperity and peace to Filipinos

Profiles in Courage is a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate’s history. The book profiles senators who defied the opinions of their party and constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. It begins with a quote from Edmund Burke on the courage of the English Statesman, Charles James Fox, in his 1783 attack upon the tyranny of the East India Company in the House of Commons.

 Essays on bravery and courage in Politics

In her winning essay, Zhen Tu recounts how Baker, a two-term moderate Republican “known for his willingness to make compromises,” took a stand as Senate Minority Leader to support the treaties signed in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter and Panamanian General Omar Torrijos. Tu explains that “plenty of senators and American citizens alike were strongly against ratifying the treaties” which mandated that the United States would eventually relinquish authority over the Canal to Panama. Baker forged a bipartisan effort rarely seen today to successfully lead a divided Senate through a contentious ratification process. Tu details the severe consequences Baker faced for his unpopular stand that ultimately “cost him the opportunity to obtain his party’s nomination for President in 1980.”

In his winning essay, Matthew Waltman recounts the story of how Republican mayor Selders took a stand on immigration reform after learning the details of a December 2006 raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs agents on Greeley’s largest employer, the Swift & Company meatpacking plant. In May 2007, the two-term mayor traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with Congressional lobbyists about the harmful impact of the aggressive raid on workers and families in his city. Waltman explains that Selders “hoped to prompt meaningful debate about immigration reform and move the discussion past divisive, partisan bickering and toward constructive solutions.” The winning essay describes how Selders “faced tremendous political repercussions” for speaking out about the need to treat immigrants with respect and dignity. After an onslaught of angry emails, hate calls, and a mail campaign that misrepresented his views, Selders lost his reelection in November 2007. Citing John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage, Waltman writes, “In the end, Selders’s refusal to ‘compromise away his principles’ on immigration cost him the election.”


In his winning essay, Ben Wolman describes how, as Senate President, Morse led the Colorado legislature to pass several measures regulating gun safety in a state deeply divided over the issue. With a majority of Republican and unaffiliated voters in his district, Wolman writes that Morse knew “he didn’t have a Democratic base he could rely upon if he took huge political risks.” In addition, Wolman says, “the NRA and other gun advocacy groups launched a myriad of advertisements aimed at degrading and shaming Senator Morse.” Wolman explains that Morse’s actions were consistent with Kennedy’s definition of political courage. “Morse didn’t ignore his constituents’ opinions; he acknowledged them while also recognizing that what he did was, however controversial, justified and honorable, done to protect the same citizens who were speaking against him.”

In Patrick Reilly winning essay, “Governor Russell Peterson: Loyal to Future Generations,” Reilly profiles Peterson, who introduced legislation to protect Delaware’s coastal areas from industrial development despite intense pressure from a variety of interest groups. Not only was the governor’s stance at odds with his predecessors, but, as Reilly wrote, “Industrial leaders believed that Peterson, a Republican and former Dupont executive, would surely support further industrialization.” Reilly goes on to explain how Peterson’s Coastal Zone Act “took the nationally unprecedented step of declaring Delaware’s coastline and waters forever off-limits to new heavy industrial development.” Peterson faced anger and pressure from corporate leaders, labor, and federal officials. The State Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, construction workers staged demonstrations outside his home, and the Secretary of Commerce claimed that he was “being disloyal” to the country. “A lesser man would have crumbled under such a harsh rebuke,” Reilly wrote, “but Peterson simply replied, ‘Hell, no. I am being loyal to future generations of Americans.’” The one-term governor stayed true to his convictions and kept the bill intact, ensuring “clean waters, pristine wetlands, and excellent beaches that continue to support lucrative fishing and tourism industries.”

In Kevin Kay winning essay, “The Forgotten Floridian: John B. Orr, Jr.”, Kay profiles civil rights advocate John B. Orr, Jr. who, as a freshman Florida State Representative in 1956, courageously challenged his state’s resistance to school integration. Kay describes how two years after the highest court in the nation mandated the integration of public schools, Florida Governor LeRoy Collins proposed a series of bills that would “circumvent the Supreme Court’s Brown ruling.” Eighty-nine legislators approved the first of the bills; Representative John B. Orr, Jr. stood alone against the measure. Kay writes, “…Orr addressed a hushed and tense chamber to justify his dissent. ‘I believe that segregation is morally wrong,’ he professed. ‘I believe that second-class citizens are repugnant to democratic principles. The fact that the custom is of long standing makes it no less wrong.’” Orr faced severe consequences for his daring stand against segregation including death threats and a cross burned on his lawn. The Miami Herald claimed Orr was “washed up politically” and “alone-without friends’ among his fellow legislators.” Having already secured the Democratic nomination, Orr managed to win re-election that year. However, he lost his seat to segregationist David Eldridge in the following Democratic primary election.