Barack Obama last night called on members of Congress to exercise the “political courage” to not repeal Obamacare .
Reporting this dramatic development, Politico said these were the ex-president's first public comments about the law since the House of Representatives voted to repeal it on Thursday.
It was "a rare entry into the current political debate since leaving office," said Politico.
Obama made his remarks in a speech at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston accepting the Profiles in Courage award in honor of what would have been Kennedy’s 100th birthday.
Obama said of the politicians in Congress, “I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what’s politically expedient, but doing what, deep in our hearts, we know is right,”
Obama made it clear he wasn't finished:,“I expect to be busy, if not with a second career, at least a second act,” he said.
Obama talked of those who lost their seats after voting for the healthcare law in 2010, and described his “fervent hope” that current members “recognize it takes little courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential — but it takes some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm, those who often have no access to the corridors of power.”
The contrast of an Obama celebration days after the House vote on his signature law and President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that it’s “dead,” was on the minds of many in the room, said Politico.
“I think it is altogether fitting that we’re here this evening,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “Barack Obama was able to pass the Affordable Care Act, a continuation of the vision of President Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. Today, Donald Trump is trying to destroy that vision.”
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake was the lone Republican member of Congress who joined the library for the event. A moderate who had a good relationship with Obama in the White House Flake said he wants to start the Obamacare conversation from scratch.
"I wouldn't expect the House bill to come through intact,” he said, also repeating that he opposes Trump’s border wall. “We'll see. It'll be a long process."
Flake said he was happy to see Obama’s move toward unifying the country. Asked if he feels Trump has been unifying, Flake said, “at times. At times, not so much.”
Obama made no explicit comment about Trump. But he made a passing mention of immigration reform, on “Dreamers,” - the children brought undocumented by their parents to America whom he protected from deportation via executive orders while in office.
"They who push down their fears to keep working and striving in the only country they’ve ever called home," said Obama.
The speech was his first major speech as a former president, and he will now depart for an event at the Milan food summit with his friend and former White House chef Sam Kass . He last week publicly endorsed French presidential winner Emmanuel Macron, and will travel to Berlin at the end of the month for an event with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing her own election campaign .
The event was largely an Obama celebration, said Politico - complete with James Taylor mini-concert — “It’s frankly a relief” to be with Obama and not thinking about Trump, the musician said as he kicked off a set that ended with a rendition of the French national anthem in honor of Macron’s win.
David Letterman said he didn’t need to hear Obama talk about the new president, but did want to hear Obama talk about inspiring a new generation to get involved.
“If you don’t have people doing this,” Letterman said, “it’ll turn into a dictatorship.”