Former President Barack Obama hit back at the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act on Sunday as he received the Profile in Courage Award at the JFK Library in Boston.
The award, presented on the centennial of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s birth by his daughter Caroline and his only grandson, Jack Schlossberg, was presented to Obama just three days after House Republicans finally passed a plan they say will repeal and replace the ACA, aka Obamacare.
In introducing the former president, Schlossberg praised Obama’s efforts during his first 100 days in office in 2008 to push for passage of the landmark legislation even “knowing the issue would cost him and the party politically.”
“We saw this week that it’s a lot easier to criticize and dismantle. President Obama had the courage to govern responsibly,” Schlossberg said.
Obama’s 30-minute address in front of a who’s who of Democratic Party leadership at the library on the UMass Boston campus launched a defense of the Affordable Care Act, the 44th president’s landmark legacy bill that provided health coverage for 20 million previously uninsured Americans.
Obama acknowledged that passage of the ACA had political consequences for many members of Congress, saying they demonstrated a true profile in courage because many of them lost their seats.
“They had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy and even death, but this same vote would likely cost them their new seats, perhaps end their political careers. And these men and women did the right thing. They did the hard thing. Theirs was a profile in courage. Because of that vote, 20 million people got health insurance who didn’t have it before, and most of them did lose their seats,” he said.
Despite the push toward the Obamacare repeal, Obama stayed hopeful in what he called “a time of great cynicism about our institutions.”
"I have said before that I believe what Dr. King said – that the arc of the moral universe bends, but it bends toward justice," Obama said. "I have also said that it does not bend on its own, but it bends because we bend it, and we put our hand on the arc and we move it in the direction of justice and freedom and equality and kindness and generosity. It does not happen on its own."
The annual award has been given out since 1989. Past winners include Sen. John McCain, President Gerald Ford, Rep. John Lewis, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. Gabby Giffords and President George H.W. Bush.