BOSTON – Former President Barack Obama returns to the spotlight Sunday to accept an award for political courage from the John F. Kennedy family, days after House Republicans won passage of a bill dismantling much of his signature health care law.
The Democrat has made few public appearances since leaving office in January, and has avoided mention of his Republican successor in the White House, even as President Donald Trump has criticized the previous administration numerous times while moving to undo many of Obama’s initiatives.
Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama arrived at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a dinner and ceremony to accept the annual Profile in Courage award, named for a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Kennedy that profiled eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled though unpopular positions.
Among the long line of guests who made their way down the red carpet into the library for the event Sunday night were members of the Kennedy family, members of Congress, former Obama staffers and celebrities including former late-night talk show host David Letterman.
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Obama earned the award by meeting many challenges that faced him during his presidency.
“It’s about understanding the challenges we face as a country and as a planet and mustering the political will to do what is right even if what is right at that moment isn’t necessarily popular,” said Kennedy, a harsh critic of the GOP health overhaul plan.
In selecting the former president for the award, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation lauded Obama for expanding health security to millions of Americans, which opponents of the bill passed by the House on Thursday argued could be lost if it becomes law. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
“President Kennedy called on a new generation of Americans to give their talents to the service of the country,” said Caroline Kennedy, the late president’s daughter, in announcing the award in March. “With exceptional dignity and courage, President Obama has carried that torch into our time, providing young people of all backgrounds with an example they can emulate in their own lives.”
Caroline Kennedy was scheduled to present the award along with JFK’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg.
While the former president has steered away from involvement in U.S. affairs during his early months out of office, he forayed into the French political debate last week by posting a message of endorsement for centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who defeated his far right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s election in France.
Obama is not the first U.S. president to receive the Profile in Courage award. Previous recipients include Republicans Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.