Kennedy Award Honors Obama's Commitment To Public Service

May 8, 2017
Originally published on May 8, 2017 8:28 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So at an event in Boston last night, former President Barack Obama defended the Affordable Care Act. His comments came as he was accepting the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. This is given annually by the Kennedy family to recognize commitment to public service. Here's Anthony Brooks from member station WBUR.

ANTHONY BROOKS, BYLINE: The Kennedy family honored Obama for a number of his policies including restoring diplomatic ties to Cuba, fighting climate change and for his signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act which President Trump and House Republicans are trying hard to dismantle.

This was Obama's third public event since he left the White House, and the first in which he directly challenged Republicans. As he accepted the Profile in Courage Award, Obama said many of the lawmakers who voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2009 exemplified the kind of courage for which the award is named.

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BARACK OBAMA: These freshman congressmen and women knew that they had to make a choice, that they had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy and even death, but that this same vote would likely cost them their new seats.

BROOKS: And Obama noted many did lose their seats because he said they put the welfare of the country above their own political survival. And he urged current members of Congress to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts their party's position.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn't take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm.

BROOKS: Obama received this year's Profile in Courage Award three weeks before the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy's birth. He said the reward reminds him that even out of office, he'll do all he can to advance the spirit of service that John F. Kennedy represents. For NPR News, I'm Anthony Brooks in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.