Obama Accepts JFK Award, Calls for Courage Amid Division - NBC New York
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Obama Accepts JFK Award, Calls for Courage Amid Division

"For many Americans, I know that this feels like an uncertain and perilous time," the former president said

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    In a half-hour speech, former President Barack Obama accepted his Profile in Courage award and spoke about courage in daily life on both large and small scales. (Published Sunday, May 7, 2017)

    Former President Barack Obama returned to the spotlight earlier this month to accept an award for political courage from the family of John F. Kennedy, days after House Republicans won passage of a bill dismantling much of Obama's signature health insurance law.

    Obama received the Profile in Courage Award during a dinner at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. The annual award is 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.

    "For many Americans, I know that this feels like an uncertain and perilous time," Obama said while accepting the award. He was accompanied by his wife, Michelle Obama, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

    Obama has made few public appearances since leaving office in January and has avoided mention of his Republican successor President Donald Trump, who has criticized the previous administration numerous times while moving to undo many of Obama's initiatives.

    Obama still didn't say Trump's name at the ceremony, as NBC News reported, but he continued to address the needs of America today.

    "Our politics remains filled with division and discord," he said. "At such moments, courage is necessary. At such moments, we need courage to stand up to hate, not just in others, but in ourselves. At such moments, we need courage to stand up to dogma, not just in others, but in ourselves.

    "Courage means not doing what is simply politically expedient but doing what [people] believe in their hearts is right," Obama added. "And this kind of courage is required of all of us."

    The JFK Library Foundation lauded Obama for expanding health security to millions of Americans. The new American Health Care Act from Republicans was passed by the House on Thursday, and opponents argue Obama's work could be lost if the bill becomes law. The plan now faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

    The foundation also cited Obama's leadership toward an international agreement on climate change and restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    "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."

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    Jack Schlossberg, JFK's only grandchild, said he was inspired in 2008 by Obama's vision for America "and the promises he laid out."

    Jack Schlossberg, JFK's only grandchild, introduced Obama and said he was inspired in 2008 by Obama's vision for America "and the promises he laid out."

    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 France's centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in his campaign against far-right candidate Marine La Pen.

    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. Last year's winner was Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.