When a young man who would become president of the United States wrote “Profiles in Courage,” he sought to honor those who made difficult decisions against tall odds.
It took courage to fight the so-called conventional wisdom and to face down critics who would scorn them. John F. Kennedy’s book won him a Pulitzer Prize and it created a benchmark for others to emulate.
President Kennedy died in 1963 and in 1990 the library built to honor his memory and his family launched the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In May, the president’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, will honor one of JFK’s successors to the presidency, George H.W. Bush, for showing true courage in the face of withering criticism that — some have said — cost him re-election in 1992.
President Bush made his famous pledge at the 1988 Republican National Convention: “Read my lips, no … new … taxes.” The Louisiana Superdome crowd roared its approval and the then-vice president went on to win a huge victory that year in the race for the presidency.
Then in 1990, the president signed into law a federal budget that included — that’s right — tax increases along with spending cuts that sought to curb the federal budget deficit.
He was vilified by those on the right. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist to this day calls it a “betrayal of the American people.”
He is mistaken. The president sought to take back a promise he made in the heat of a highly charged political environment. He acted reasonably and faced down his critics.
For that the Kennedy Library is going to honor the 41st president of the United States.
President Bush has demonstrated that he truly cut a profile in courage.