The comment, from John F. Kennedy’s only grandson, came as he introduced Obama at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s May dinner gala Sunday night, where Obama was honored with the annual Profile in Courage Award.
Schlossberg and mother Caroline Kennedy presented Obama with the award. The recent Yale graduate likened the impact the 44th president had on him with the influence his grandfather, JFK, had on the country.
“Throughout his presidency, my grandfather made it clear that he alone could fix nothing; that he alone had no answers,” Schlossberg said. “He had the courage to plainly admit America’s shortcomings, to then lay out bold plans to address those problems and to ask his fellow Americans for help in solving them … he inspired a generation to enter public service and to ask what they could do for their country.”
“President Barack Obama inspired me in the same way,” he continued. “My life changed in 2008 because a young candidate was fired up and ready to go, and he told me `yes we can.’”
Obama, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, received a standing ovation before delivering a potent speech that, in part, took aim at President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) – which remains Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
Despite referencing Trump several times, Obama never mentioned the current president by name.
“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 — those who often have no access to the corridors of power,” Obama said. “I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what’s politically expedient, but doing what they believe deep in our hearts is right.”
The black tie gala included a mini concert from James Taylor, and had many past and present political heavy hitters in attendance, including former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and a bevy of Kennedys. Caroline Kennedy’s husband, Ed Schlossberg, and their two daughters, Rose and Tatiana, also attended the elaborate event, held in a waterfront tent outside the library.
Former late-night TV host David Letterman, sporting a full white beard, was accompanied by his wife Regina Lasko.
When asked if he thought Obama is a worthy candidate for this year’s award, Letterman told PEOPLE, “He should get it every year, don’t you think?”
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Created in 1989, the Profile in Courage Award is named after the country’s 35th president. Recent recipients include Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, Bob Inglis, former U.S. representative from South Carolina, and former President George H.W. Bush.
Obama ended his 30-minute speech by reminding everyone – himself included – of President John F. Kennedy’s edict to “embrace our responsibility as citizens.”
“That’s the spirit that has brought America so far and that’s the spirit that will always carry us to better days,” he said. “And I take this honor that you have bestowed on me here tonight as a reminder that, even out of office, I must do all that I can to advance the spirit of service that John F. Kennedy represents.”