“The belief that America’s promise might embrace those who had once been locked out or left behind and that opportunity and dignity would no longer be restricted to the few but extended to the many.” – President Barack Obama
It was the sentence in former President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum last night that struck the biggest chord in my heart. It reminded me of both the fact that we have lived eight years of a world where the marginalized have been able to step into the light (and yes, even the geeks have benefitted from that, especially ones who can see themselves in Sam Wilson’s Captain America, or Jane Foster’s Thor, Riri Williams’ Iron-heart, or Miles Morales’ Spider-man) and the iconic Spock speech in Star Trek II, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one,” which is an easy connection to make given that the former President is a self-identified Trekkie who said in an interview in WIRED Magazine titled “TREKKIE,OK President Barack Obama On Why Star Trek Is So Important”‘, that Star Trek was “really talking about a notion of a common humanity and a confidence in our ability to solve problems.”
President Obama was this year’s recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. The John F. Kennedy Library and Foundation created this award to recognize public officials at the federal, state, or local level whose “actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership.” If nothing else, bringing health care to millions of people and championing people of color by asking hard questions about race, supporting gay marriage, advocating for trans children’s rights, and shining a spotlight on women’s health and women’s rights is politically courageous in a country where those particular marginalized groups are often targeted.
As President Obama gave his acceptance speech, I felt a wave of emotion unlike any I’ve felt over the past several months, as he spoke with quiet dignity, humor, and hope. Like any of my favorite superheroes, he also had a moral message for those who would undo protections for those same groups: “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.”
President Obama was presented the award by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy and who served as Ambassador to Japan during President Obama’s tenure, and Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson. Also in attendance were the former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Markey and Warren, and former Massachusetts governor Duvall Patrick and his wife.
Art Credit – Marvel / JFk Library