Monday, February 18, 2013

Profiles in Courage

Profiles in Courage was 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 crossed party lines and/or defied the opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. The book was widely celebrated and became a best seller. John F. Kennedy is credited as its author although some say it was actually written by Kennedy confidant Theodore Sorenson. It seems like today's Senate and House of Representatives could use senators and representatives willing to cross party lines to get things done. I bring up this book today as it is the annual celebration of President's Day and of course in 1957 John Kennedy was himself a senator and would be elected President in 1960 and of course our current president Barack Obama was himself a senator from the state of Illinois. So was a man whom Obama admires greatly even though he was a Republican-another senator from Illinois-Abraham Lincoln whose life is currently being reviewed in a major motion picture-Lincoln. All this talk of Washington reminds me once again of the story of Flight 93. The intended target of United Flight 93 flying from Newark to San Francisco on September 11, 2001 was the Capitol Building. Both houses were in session that day. Imagine how that would have crippled our government. Our ability to rule as a democracy would have endured, but with severe limitations. One of the parts of the story of Flight 93 that is perhaps the most remarkable is that the passengers and crew took a vote before they decided to storm the cockpit and stop the hijacking. The story of Flight 93 will be told in a different fashion beginning sometime in 2014 as the next phase of construction is completed with the opening of The Visitors and Learning Center. Last September 10th and 11th a program was held at the Flight 93 Memorial titled "Learning Center Without Walls." Each day two panel presentations reviewed the events of September 11, 2001-from a first person point of view. The program can now be viewed online at You can also Google Learning Center Without Walls and it will take you to the National Park Service site. Recently the language arts teacher on my interdisciplinary team at Chardon Middle School began planning units of instruction. One of them is titled Profiles in Courage. The educator plans to use stories of individuals like Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King Jr. Each of the 40 brave passengers and crew aboard United Flight 93 had an interesting life story. To learn more about each of them I suggest you read Among the Heroes by Jere Longman. You will not be able to put it down. The film United 93 does an excellent job of retelling the story of that day as well. Their acts of courage will forever be remembered by a grateful nation.

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