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Courage in The People's House

Nine Trailblazing Representatives Who Shaped America

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About The Book

Featuring the remarkable stories of nine US Representatives who helped shape America, Courage in the People’s House is a “reminder of how courage can make a difference, and how, especially in the darkest of times, the lessons of history are most needed” (Booklist).

In this “well-written addition to the history of Congress” (Kirkus Reviews), Courage in the People’s House tells the “accessible and well-researched” (Booklist) stories of nine individuals who served in the US House of Representatives—the “People’s House”—during a span of over one hundred years, from the 1870s to the 1990s. From the first African American to serve in the House to immigrants elected at the dawn of the 20th century, all were trailblazers who made significant contributions to the country. The book provides an inspiring story of America through profiles of each of them, representatives of all political stripes who overcame the odds and demonstrated the courage to challenge powerful interests, and at times, their own political allies. The nine members of Congress are:

-Joseph Rainey, South Carolina
-Josiah Walls, Florida
-William B. Wilson, Pennsylvania
-Adolph Sabath, Illinois
-Oscar Stanton De Priest, Illinois
-Margaret Chase Smith, Maine
-Henry B. Gonzalez, Texas
-Shirley Chisholm, New York
-Barbara Jordan, Texas

In this “brisk and spirited debut” (Publishers Weekly), Representative Joe Neguse, the first African American elected to Congress from Colorado, shares how these nine ordinary Americans served nobly despite the barriers before them and did extraordinary things in service to their constituents, the Constitution, and the country.

Excerpt

Prologue Prologue
Awe overwhelmed us as my wife, Andrea, and I walked into the Library of Congress for the very first time on a cold evening in early November 2018. We had arrived in our nation’s capital a mere few days after that year’s general election, for what was billed as “New Member Orientation,” a training session of sorts for newly elected members of Congress. Feeling far removed from our home in the suburbs of northern Colorado (with perhaps the only exception being the light snow that had apparently arrived with us in Washington, DC), we were scheduled that evening to join in a dinner with new and sitting members of the House of Representatives—my soon-to-be colleagues. As we walked through the ornate hallways of the historic library, two thirty-somethings from relatively modest means, we kept looking up at the cinematic grandeur of the place, and then, glancing back at each other with the same befuddled look. What in the world are we doing here? we thought, as we saw the many famous politicians all around the room, familiar from our television screen back in Colorado.

Neither of us had ever visited the Library of Congress before. And we were both transfixed with a fundamental sense of awe—not simply for the historic buildings, but for what they represented—the world’s oldest and greatest constitutional republic. Not our nation’s perfection, as I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t think it could be improved, but rather, the exceptional and unique idea of a republic that America’s founders and framers had wisely created. As a son of African immigrants and a daughter of Mexican Americans, both firmly middle class with big dreams, we had somehow found our way here, to this extraordinary place, imbued with a real chance to do our part to try to make our country better.

And then, suddenly, we were face to face with one of our nation’s heroes. Andrea and I recognized him immediately. It was John Lewis, the famous civil rights leader and representative from Georgia. Both of us had learned in high school about his bravery during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And now, here he was, in the flesh—the man who inspired a generation with his fiery speech next to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Lincoln Memorial, and who had been beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, as he marched for justice, twenty years before either of us was even born.

He was a giant but small in stature, shorter than me. I was still wondering, nervously, how to make the right impression as I reached out to shake his hand—distracted by the thought that his hand was the same one that had once shaken Dr. King’s—when he said, “Hello, young brother, how are you?”

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but I wasn’t particularly articulate in my response. “I’m good, I’m good, Mr. Lewis,” I said. “My name is Joe Neguse, and this is my wife, Andrea. I was just elected to Congress.”

He recalled that I was the “young brother from Colorado” and congratulated me. I thanked him for everything he had done to make it possible for someone like me to even be able to raise my hand to run for office. I thanked him for all he had done for so many people. I thanked him for the opportunity to shake his hand. Andrea told me later that I was so nervous I even thanked him for a speech that evening he had yet to give! As the conversation came to a close, Mr. Lewis said, “Well, I appreciate that, young brother, but I appreciate you stepping up. We’re proud of you, and I’m so glad the people of Colorado made that decision and made history.”

As we parted, Andrea and I were moved beyond words.

We both were struck by his reminder of the barrier our state had broken in my election as Colorado’s first Black member of Congress. But far more than that, we were deeply moved by the simple, yet profound experience of meeting one of America’s most inspirational representatives, whose acts of courage had helped shape our country for the better.

I’ve long believed that America is the greatest democratic republic our world has ever known. For over two centuries, the United States has been a unique experiment in the ability of citizens to govern themselves through a constitutional structure, and to do so by a defining set of values, rather than an order imposed by a homogeneous ethnicity or creed—the values of freedom, liberty, equality, the rule of law, and more, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. As the world’s first and perhaps only truly multiracial republic, our country has been shaped over time by countless public servants—Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative—who’ve worked to honor the meaning of those founding documents. And many of them served in the institution I would soon join: the US House of Representatives, or what some have colloquially referred to as the “People’s House.”

The historical record offers few answers as to why the House of Representatives has earned that moniker. Ostensibly, it refers to the simple fact that the House was originally the only part of our federal government elected directly by America’s citizens. That is no longer the case, as members of the United States Senate are now also elected directly by the public, pursuant to the Seventeenth Amendment of the Constitution. Still, the House remains the only institution in which members must be elected by the American people when a vacancy arises (whereas senators may be, and often are, appointed). And there is little debate—among members of the House, at least—that the legislative chamber is the part of our federal government most closely connected to the “people,” as amorphous a word as that may be.

The House has also attracted a far wider array of Americans than other governmental institutions, who, having earned the confidence of their fellow citizens, have made the journey to Washington, DC, to serve their constituency and their country. And with each of these history-making leaders whom Americans have sent to Congress—the first African Americans elected in the late nineteenth century; the first working-class White immigrants elected from crowded, polyglot cities soon thereafter; the first women elected to Congress in the twentieth century; and the late John Lewis himself—voters amended what it meant to be an American. They changed us all by making our country’s promise truer and more open, and in that sense, helped shape our country, as every generation is called upon to do. This is an extraordinary legacy, and one about which most of us, myself included, know far too little.

This book seeks to change that.

In the pages that follow, we will explore acts of determination and political bravery by people many have never heard of—leaders who shaped our country as pioneers by opening the Congress to all Americans. For some of them, simply running for office required great courage. But the tales only begin with their elections. The greater lessons came after each was sworn in and began their service in the House, as they worked to represent their constituents, their districts, and their country.

My awe for the People’s House has not faded since that night in November years ago when I first heard Mr. Lewis speak to the gathered freshman legislators. Perhaps that reverence is borne from the simple fact that I never intended to run for Congress and could never have imagined walking the halls of the Capitol.

When the opportunity to run first arose in the summer of 2017, I already had the best job I could imagine, leading my state’s consumer protection agency as a member of the governor of Colorado’s cabinet. Andrea and I had recently married, and we were thinking about starting a family. I had benefited from multiple opportunities to pursue my dreams, including practicing law and serving as an elected regent of the University of Colorado. All in all, it was clear to me that much about my life underlined the miracle of American opportunity and its amazing gift of freedoms to me and my family, which we could never take for granted.

My parents, Debesai and Azeib, put me here, in Colorado, with all these opportunities. They had left Eritrea, a small war-torn country in the Horn of Africa, separately as refugees, before they met in Bakersfield, California, and married. I was born four years after their arrival. To make their way in America, they worked many jobs—from fast-food restaurants to retail stores—and achieved success through sheer effort and hard work, my mother becoming a bank teller and my father earning his degree as an accountant. I was very young when we moved to the suburbs of Douglas County, Colorado, where my sister and I were lucky to grow up in a middle-class home and attend good public schools. I can still recall, vividly, traveling to Eritrea for the first time as a twelve-year-old, and the sense of profound shock I felt at how different our life had become in just one generation.

I knew I was incredibly lucky. And I felt a powerful responsibility not to waste the opportunity my parents and this country had given me. Although I never dreamed of serving in Congress, I always felt a need to be an active participant in our democracy, in part, because I knew so many others could not. In that sense, I felt it was up to me to make all their sacrifices worthwhile. Indeed, it’s the same reason why I believe in America as strongly as I do. How could I not, after all my family and I had been given?

From the time Colorado entered the Union in 1876, until 2018, the state had never elected an African American to the US House of Representatives. And yet, when I decided to run for Congress, breaking that barrier was not top of mind. Protecting our environment, expanding access to public education, reducing gun violence, and a steadfast belief in our ability to build a more hopeful future—those were the issues, among others, that animated my desire to serve, and they ultimately became the core of my first congressional campaign.

Still, on occasion, after a long evening of phone banking or knocking on voter doors during our primary campaign, I’d indulge, if only for a moment, the thought that maybe—just maybe—we might make state history. Months later, having won a heated primary campaign and earned the Democratic nomination, that same thought waned for a time as Andrea and I welcomed the birth of our daughter, Natalie. Enthralled and fully engaged with the new light of both of our lives, there were days I would genuinely forget that we were still campaigning. Life was moving very fast.

Although many assumed we would win, I didn’t want to take victory in the general election for granted, so we didn’t slow the pace. Meanwhile, a looming awareness began to take hold—that, besides the wonderful and total life change of becoming a father, I might also be going to Washington and uprooting a life that had been lived almost entirely close to home, in the suburbs of Colorado. Besides worrying about those rapidly approaching changes, however, I also began thinking seriously about what role I might play were I lucky enough to be elected. Of one thing I was sure: at a time when so much of our politics had become consumed by division and fear, I’d endeavor to focus on the hope I knew firsthand that our country promised.

That inspiration crystalized in another moment near the end of the campaign, in late October 2018. During the closing weeks of the campaign, I had the opportunity to tour Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. While on the tour, we were shown a school room for seriously ill children who were patients at the hospital. As we walked through the room, our tour guide showed us a wall where students had posted inspirational quotes from various famous people.

On that wall, I saw the sentence “Fear is contagious, but so is hope.”

I had never heard that phrase before. The statement had no attribution, and I didn’t know who had put it on that board. But I was deeply struck by it. And I held tight to that idea through the rest of the campaign. In my victory speech a few weeks later in November, I said, “There was a whole lot to be fearful of yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the last two years, but tonight, because each and every one of you is standing up and reclaiming our democracy, the hope for tomorrow has never been brighter.”

That was my frame of mind when we arrived in Washington just a few days later, amid this whirlwind of change in our lives, and met John Lewis for the first time. It was then that I really took in the historic sweep of what service in the People’s House truly means. Shaking his hand was one part of that dawning awareness, the sense of being in the presence of living history. Another part was the realization of the historically large and exceptionally talented class of representatives I would have the privilege of entering Congress with. They were proof of the hope infused in our country’s premise and the truth that a thriving republic, inclusive of all its citizens, is not a dream but instead a reality bequeathed to us by those brave members of Congress who came before.

I began thinking seriously about who those people had been.

Since our nation’s founding, more than twelve thousand Americans have been elected to Congress. On the Congressional Historian’s website, I found a page detailing many of these Americans—some famous, a few infamous—and others, completely unknown today. As I scoured the webpages, my astonishing realization was that I knew very little about most of them. Dipping into the biographies on the congressional website, I learned about former slaves who were elected to Congress after the Civil War and fought valiantly for civil rights. I learned about an immigrant from Scotland who labored by hand as a young boy in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and then led the fight nationally for the rights of miners and working Americans. And I learned about the first woman elected to Congress from Maine, who courageously confronted Senator Joe McCarthy’s tactics in the 1950s.

None of their names was familiar to me.

The seed of an idea for this book was born. I was determined to learn more about how this institution came to be, who made it what it had become, and to spread that knowledge widely. Most of all, I wanted to show the remarkable acts of courage of these legislators—representatives of all races, genders, religions, and political affiliations—who, as Americans, loved their country and were prepared to give up their honors and power, if necessary, to cast votes of conscience for the greater good. And I promised myself that, if given the opportunity to perhaps one day write a book and share a story, I would share theirs.

One reason their stories are less well known is, in my view, the institutional preference among many historians for other parts of our federal government: the presidency, the Senate, the Supreme Court—indeed, it seems, everything but the House of Representatives. And yet, the People’s House is truly an institution like no other.

The Senate is certainly the more famous legislative chamber, long described as the greatest deliberative body on Earth, with one hundred individually powerful members whose six-year terms were meant to provide the “select and stable member of the government” as described by Founding Father James Madison in The Federalist Papers, some of the most important essays ever written in American history. The House, on the other hand, has 435 individual members who, per Federalist No. 52, “have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people,” secured through far more frequent elections—every two years—than any other part of our government.

In turn, the House looks much more like the country: younger, more diverse, and with a greater variety of occupations. Indeed, as Madison presciently noted more than two hundred years ago, “the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession or religious faith.” In many respects, the People’s House fulfills the founders’ intent as the most democratic part of our federal government. And true to form, over the decades this system has worked to open up access to more of our citizens.

However, despite that fact and the House’s close proximity to the American people, presidents still receive the bulk of attention from many historians and most Americans. So do the many colorful senators from years past and their famous debates. But the most fundamentally American stories emerge from the House, where ordinary people have mustered the courage and skill to do extraordinary things.

Put simply, members of the House must earn their places in history. And the individuals profiled in the pages that follow have done precisely that.

It bears noting that some of the most profoundly important laws in our country’s history started in the House, including legislation to protect the fundamental rights of every American, often starting their path when a member dropped a bill in the “hopper”—a tradition that still exists today and is open to any Member, simply by walking onto the House floor and inserting legislative papers. Madison—one of America’s most important and pivotal founders—served four terms in the House before he became president and introduced the Constitution’s Bill of Rights as legislation on the House floor in 1789. One of our nation’s greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, served a term in the House before he became president, during the years when the body convulsed with controversy over issues leading up to the Civil War. During that same era, John Quincy Adams served as a congressman for nine terms—having already served as president—and fought to defeat a gag rule that prevented debate on the House floor over abolishing slavery (a rule he objected to as unconstitutional). While the Civil War still raged, the Thirteenth Amendment began its path to inclusion in the Constitution, forever ending slavery, as a bill introduced in the House. A century later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 began there, too. With each law, and with each election, ordinary Americans who came to Congress helped shape our republic, extending its protection and promise to more Americans, as they fulfilled the meaning of the words of our founding documents.

A stranger to the Capitol before that winter night in November 2018, I have become a constant inhabitant these past few years. As I walk the bustling halls after a meeting or finish taking constituents on a quiet, late-evening tour of the building, I remind myself that all of us who have the honor of being there are in the presence of all those who went before, whose deeds remain so profound and present because they have not ended, as Americans continue the fight to advance and protect our country. Our inspiration comes from those unsung representatives whose words and work brought us there, so we can add to their work, and together make the more perfect union that we dream of without expectation of perfection, but always moving closer to it.

My own faith in our democratic experiment goes back, in part, to a book I picked up as a teenager in high school in the suburbs of Colorado. I can’t exactly recall where I first got my paperback version of John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage or precisely why it fell into my hands. But I can still bring to mind the feelings of excitement, fascination, and purpose that the book engendered as I flipped its pages and learned for the first time about the political life of the Congress, captivated by the elevated prose through which Kennedy told of a series of unique acts of political courage by each of eight senators throughout American history. The impact was indelible, and the inspiration enduring.

My original interest had been in President Kennedy himself. As a student, I read with great interest the commencement address he delivered at American University in June 1963, five months before his assassination. The address, commonly known as the “Peace Speech,” still represents to me one of the best expressions of a more hopeful political philosophy—one undergirded by our common sense of humanity. Coming after the Cuban missile crisis, when President Kennedy faced down the Soviet Union in a test of nuclear brinkmanship, he called on Americans to recognize the humanity of our adversaries and described a lasting, pragmatic peace that could be based on rules, institutions, and mutual respect. “For, in the final analysis,” President Kennedy reminds us, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit the same planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

It was because of that speech that I had found President Kennedy, and perhaps, in turn, found Profiles in Courage. And I found his stories about other senators I had never heard of—and the portrayal of their sacrifices and acts of daring to do what they believed was right—absolutely riveting. One reason for the book’s enduring popularity is its retelling of an aspect of politics many never consider, one of true service, in which individuals reached positions of power and prestige but chose to go against their own political interests, and often the desires of their constituents, in the service of conscience. The setting struck me powerfully, as I could see in my imagination the great debates and decisions of state playing out on the floor of the Senate, with the course of history determined by an individual’s battle with their own sense of right and wrong.

The stories Kennedy recounted in Profiles continue to echo throughout our country’s history in interesting ways. As a House impeachment manager in February 2021, I studied extensively the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson more than one hundred fifty years earlier, in 1868. He avoided removal from office by only one vote, a vote unexpectedly cast by an obscure senator from Kansas, Edmund G. Ross, who had been Johnson’s ardent critic. Kennedy profiled Ross, approvingly quoting a historian who called his vote “the most heroic act in American history.” While some have a different view, as President Kennedy noted in Profiles, the book’s subject was courage, not justification of the decisions made by the politicians about whom he wrote, and part of its strength comes from his choice of surprising characters with unique perspectives.

This book humbly attempts to do something similar.

The goal is simple: to tell a story about America though the nine profiles that follow of House of Representatives members of all political stripes who showed great courage—not only in the determination to overcome the odds and break barriers just to serve in Congress, but in the risks they took, as they faced off against powerful interests and sometimes their own allies, and what they sought to accomplish as the fruits of those labors. After all, moral courage in dedication to what one believes is right and best for our country is often a prerequisite to real leadership and the opportunity to improve the lives of our fellow citizens. These leaders had those qualities. And while none of them was perfect, their service made a difference.

So we begin with courage, and with the important premise that the story of political courage in Congress includes all Americans. These members’ impact reaches beyond the issues of their day and includes the whole meaning and sweep of our democracy, as they redefined who it includes and how we can manifest a government of, by, and for the people. These profiles tell that story even as the story of our nation continues to unfold, and as we decide our part in it daily. My hope is that long after I’ve left office, someone may read about these nine public servants, many of whom history has made little note, and be, at least in part, as inspired as I was when I read President Kennedy’s book, many decades after his death—and that perhaps they could come to see themselves as someone who could also step forward with the hope of someday contributing to their country.

That hope, or goal as it were, is not an inconsequential one. Our democracy has rarely been at greater risk or in more desperate need for people of good faith to step forward and help save it. And yet we have diminished the stature of government so substantially in the minds of our citizenry that one would be hard-pressed to find many who believe that serving in public office is an honorable profession, much less a forum in which to demonstrate courage and improve our union.

We diminish this birthright at our own peril.

Centuries ago, one of America’s greatest presidents, our nation’s first, George Washington, wisely noted that “[a] primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government,” for in a republic like ours, “what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?” He was certainly right. We know that across the arc of human civilization, whenever a republic has failed, that loss was usually precipitated to some extent by a loss of commitment to being a citizen in every sense of the word, which requires being an active participant, not a passive subject. As we drive down our knowledge of—and esteem for—our institutions and lose our respect for them—as we have done—we open the door for those who disdain the rule of law and constitutional norms that enable our system to function. Cynicism is easy, loss of respect can feel justified in the bitterness of the present, and disconnection from each other as fellow citizens—fellow Americans—happens all by itself. Meanwhile, the opposite—rebuilding the connective tissues that make us one nation—can appear impossible.

It is not.

We can refresh those muscles by recalling some of our best examples, ordinary people who served and did extraordinary things. They stepped forward for election to Congress, some of them at great personal peril, and when they left office, they didn’t become wealthy. To the contrary, some were impoverished and died with little, banished to the appendices of history, rarely to be read about or heard of again. Their stories inspire the unavoidable implication that we are responsible to sustain the precious republic they lent to our generation, for our temporary use, and to protect it from cynicism and demagoguery so that we can lend it onward to the next generation.

Without a doubt, Congress itself deserves some of the blame for losing the public’s respect. As a deliberative body, it is broken. Gone are the dramatic speeches and fiery debates that played out the nation’s great controversies—powerful speeches over the Thirteenth Amendment, the annexation of Texas, or World War I. In fact, today, many speeches on the House floor are made to an empty chamber for the benefit, it seems, of only the C-SPAN cameras.

During my first term, I was thrilled to address a full body, as I was called upon to speak for five minutes on a “motion to recommit” during debate on an immigration bill, a rare motion that generally requires all members to be present. During my speech, I offered the following:

“?‘It is bold men and women, yearning for freedom and opportunity, who leave their homelands and come to a new country to start their lives over. They believe in the American Dream. And over and over, they make it come true for themselves, for their children, and for others. They give more than they receive. They labor and succeed. And often they are entrepreneurs. But their greatest contribution is more than economic, because they understand in a special way how glorious it is to be an American.’ That quote, those are not my words, [Mr. Speaker]. Those are the words of President Ronald Reagan. They were delivered by President Ronald Reagan in 1980, the same year that my parents came to the United States.”

As I orated about my own family’s immigration experience, amid cheers of encouragement from some colleagues and loud jeers from others, I felt all the energy of real legislative debate. But I was, unfortunately, one of the last to do so. The next year, in the following Congress, the motion to recommit was eliminated from the House rules, as the majority believed it had been abused by the minority.

Now, those infrequent in-person debates rarely happen at all.

In committee proceedings, I have seen but a few votes ever change—on either side of the aisle—because of a point raised by the member of the other party. Quite simply, the Congress has changed dramatically since the early days of our republic. And while this book profiles nine members who overcame far greater barriers to serve than these, I sometimes wonder if they would have bothered to make those sacrifices to be a part of the Congress as it operates today.

Such speculation ends, however, when I consider the work of the giants from the modern history of the Congress who have had such a profound influence on me, including representative John Lewis, who awed me into silence with a single handshake and gave me the gift of his mentorship before he passed away, particularly during the challenging days of the presidential impeachment of 2019. That story is perhaps as good a place as any to end this prologue, as it connects to both the first and last profiles in this book and to the reason I was inspired to write in the first place.

The responsibilities came swiftly when I was sworn into office on January 3, 2019, and joined the House Judiciary Committee, one of the oldest committees of the Congress. I had chosen the committee because of its primary jurisdiction over immigration, an area of interest to me as a son of immigrants, and gun violence prevention, an issue that had driven me since my days in high school, when the terrible massacre at the neighboring Columbine High School had deeply shaken our community and our state. As fate would have it, the Judiciary Committee is also responsible under House rules and centuries of precedent for initiating, when necessary, articles of impeachment. And that put us squarely in the middle of both presidential impeachments that would ensue over the following two years.

During the 2021 impeachment trial, I studied closely the trial of Secretary of War William W. Belknap, who was impeached in 1876. And it was during that research that I learned of Representative Joseph Rainey, one of the first and most remarkable African Americans to ever serve in Congress, from 1870 to 1879.

Quite fittingly, Rainey is the first member profiled in this book.

The late Representative Barbara Jordan of Texas is the subject of this book’s last chapter. In 1974, during impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, Jordan sat, like me, as a freshman on the Judiciary Committee. When I arrived on the committee nearly half a century later, I was deeply influenced by her words, especially her extraordinary, televised speech on the Constitution and the Congress’s responsibility, which has come to be known as one of the finest speeches in congressional history. As my colleagues and I worked on the impeachment proceedings, Jordan’s speech was rightfully referenced as a North Star, for guidance on how to explain such constitutionally weighty subjects to the American people. I was grateful for the wisdom her remarks imparted to me and my colleagues during such a tumultuous time for our country, which I hoped would soon pass.

As we now know, that was not the case. Less than a year after President Donald J. Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial, following the attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021, he was impeached a second time, in the final weeks of his presidency. A second impeachment trial soon followed, and I was selected by the Speaker of the House to be a House manager, prosecuting the trial before the Senate. Again, I dipped into the speeches and decisions of the past for guidance on how to best carry out that heavy responsibility. It had been years since I had read Profiles in Courage. But it was then, reviewing the 1868 trial of President Johnson, and the vote of Senator Ross, that I began rereading the weathered paperback copy I had kept from my time in high school. I then began to think seriously about how a book elevating the best of those who served in the People’s House—people like Rainey and Jordan—could begin to heal some of the lost faith that has damaged our democracy today.

I firmly believe that their stories can still inspire us, as we reach back into history and find courage in people who are mostly forgotten, and as we seek courage today, in the struggle to safeguard our republic and preserve freedom and liberty for all Americans.

Their stories can speak for themselves.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of the author

Congressman Joe Neguse represents Colorado’s 2nd District in the US House of Representatives. A lawyer and former state cabinet official, he was elected to his first term in November 2018. He serves as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Natural Resources Committee, and Rules Committee, and in February 2021 served as a House impeachment manager.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 1, 2023)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982191672

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Raves and Reviews

“A collection of stories about members of the House of Representatives who exhibited political and moral bravery. . . . Neguse's profiles are admirably crafted, accessible, and well researched. This is a fine first effort. . . . A well-written addition to the history of Congress.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“Colorado congressman Neguse profiles nine of his predecessors in the House of Representatives in his brisk and spirited debut. . . . Neguse optimistically concludes that the potential for political courage in the House remains robust in 2023. His judicious selection of subjects will give some readers hope.”

– Publishers Weekly

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