"As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues", Obama said. That today's members of Congress are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it bucks party dogmas.
"I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is politically expedient, but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right", he said.
Among the long line of guests who made their way down the red carpet into the library for the event Sunday night were members of the Kennedy family, members of Congress, former Obama staffers and celebrities including former late-night talk show host David Letterman. While discussing his ACA milestone, Obama explained that healthcare reform hadn't been accomplished prior to his presidency because "it was hard".
Obama spoke of what is at stake for the millions of Americans who stand to lose coverage if a repeal passes, without naming Donald Trump specifically. Flake, along with many of his Senate colleagues, have signaled that the House bill is a nonstarter and that they will be starting from scratch. In accepting the award Sunday, he again tried imploring both sides of the aisle to find the courage to rise above party politics - even while delivering a message that could only possibly be intended for one of them. President Barack Obama inspired me in the same way, ' he said.
'From his first days in office until his last, the President consistently put the national interest above his own political interest while resisting the politics of cynicism in a system that all too often encourages it, ' he said.
"President Kennedy called on a new generation of Americans to give their talents to the service of the country", Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy, said in a statement.
Obama also offered a number of allusions to optimism in what he called "a time of great cynicism about our institutions".
The Democratic Party lost its majority in first the House and later the Senate following the passing of Obamacare, conceding dozens of seats to Republicans who ran on the platform of "repeal and replacing" Obamacare.
Just before leaving office, President Obama signaled that, in keeping with recent presidential history, he didn't plan to weigh in on his successor's policies.
Previous recipients include Presidents Gerald Ford and George HW Bush, former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt, US Senator and former prisoner of war John McCain and US Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis.