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The Significance of Political Courage: JFK Political Courage Essay Analysis

Political courage is a trait that has long eluded politicians, as they often prioritize their careers or personal gain over standing up for their convictions. However, John F. Kennedy, in his presidency, placed great emphasis on this attribute and sought to recognize individuals who exhibited it through the JFK Political Courage Essay. The annual contest requires high school students to write essays that reflect political courage, as exemplified by a U.S. elected official, and analyze its significance. In this article, we will delve into the importance of political courage and explore the winning essays that highlight this attribute, which is relevant even today.

The Importance of Political Courage

Political courage is an essential trait that has paved the way for several significant changes in history. In a political atmosphere where lawmakers are reluctant to take a stance, individuals that exhibit political courage are more precious than ever.

John F. Kennedy’s presidency is a great example of how political courage, despite the threats of retaliation and resistance, can bring about remarkable changes. Kennedy was not afraid to fight against corruption, stand up for civil rights, and address the Cold War. His unwavering commitment to these issues in the face of opposition proves his political courage, which is often hard to find in individuals with power.

JFK Political Courage Essay and Its Significance

The JFK Political Courage Essay contest, which has been running for over thirty years, is designed to encourage high school students to reflect on the importance of political courage in a democratic society. The contest honors John F. Kennedy’s legacy and his unwavering commitment to political courage. The contest requires students to analyze and explain how an elected official has demonstrated political courage while identifying the challenges and risks the official faced.

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Thousands of high school students from all over the country participate in this contest every year. A committee of judges, which includes distinguished historians and public officials, choose the winner. The winner is then awarded a cash prize and invited to attend the dinner at the Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

Winning Essays and Examples of Political Courage

The winning essays of the JFK Political Courage Essay contest have always provided an insightful look at political courage in elected officials. Several winners have highlighted individuals who have sacrificed their political careers for the right cause.

One such winner was Ryan Kelley, who won in 2019, writing about Senator Jeff Flake’s speech urging his colleagues to stand up for their principles and speaking out against President Trump. Flake’s speech was a result of his decision to retire instead of seeking re-election, as he was unable to support Trump’s policies. Flake’s speech was courageous in the sense that it put his political career and personal aspirations at stake.

Another winner, Grace Ding, wrote about former Governor William Weld’s political courage in pushing for the impeachment of President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Despite being a member of the same party as the president, Weld’s decision to stand in support of the Constitution over party loyalty necessitated great courage.

Political Courage in Today’s World

Today, political courage is even more important than ever before. With the rise of divisive politics and controversial issues, it is essential for lawmakers to stand up for their convictions, even in the face of opposition. Unfortunately, the lack of political courage among politicians today has become a significant issue.

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Lawmakers are often reluctant to take a stand on certain issues for fear of backlash or in light of their personal interests or careers. This hesitation has slowed down progress and impeded social change in the country.

Key Takeaways

  • Political courage is an essential attribute that allows elected officials to take a stance for the greater good.
  • JFK Political Courage Essay contest recognizes high school students for their exemplary writing on political courage.
  • The winning essays of the contest have highlighted examples of political courage in elected officials, both past, and present.
  • Political courage is essential in today’s political climate, which is increasingly divisive and rife with controversial issues.
  • Lawmakers need to exhibit political courage to bring about positive change in society.


The JFK Political Courage Essay contest has been a remarkable means of highlighting the importance of political courage in elected officials. Through the winning essays, we have learned that individuals who exhibit political courage are the ones who bring about the most significant social and political changes. Today, it is more crucial than ever for elected officials to exhibit this trait and act in the best interest of the public they serve.


Q: How can one exhibit political courage in today’s world?

A: Political courage tends to be exhibited when standing up against wrong, for the greater good, and for the truest interests of Americans. It requires taking risks, being fearless, and making difficult decisions.

Q: What is the best way to prepare for the JFK Political Courage Essay?

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A: The contest’s website provides resources, including an essay guide, video, and audio segments, to help students better understand the contest’s requirements. We strongly recommend participating in the Kennedy Library Foundation’s conferences to meet and speak with previous winners for advice.

Q: What is the JFK Political Courage Essay Prize?

A: The contest recognizes exemplary writing that highlights political courage among high school students. The winner receives a cash prize and a chance to meet and dine with distinguished historians, lawmakers, and officials at the Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston. The cash award varies annually, from $500 to $10,000.

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