President Barack Obama was honored Wednesday night with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Ripple of Hope award at a gala in New York.
“I’m very humbled by this honor. I’m not sure if you’ve heard but I’ve been on this hope kick for a while now,” Obama said in his speech Wednesday to laughs from the audience. “I gave a big speech on hope. I ran a couple of campaigns. Hope. It’s my kind of thing. … So I’d like to thank all of you for officially validating my hope credentials.”
Later in his remarks, Obama said, “It can be tempting to succumb to the cynicism, the belief that hope is a fool’s game for suckers.”
“And worse, at a time when the media is splintered and our leaders seem content to make up whatever facts they consider expedient, a lot of people have come to doubt even the very notion of a common ground, insisting the best we can do is to retreat into our respective corners, circle the wagons and then do battle with anybody who is not like ourselves,” Obama said. “Bobby Kennedy’s life reminds us to reject such cynicism.”
Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy were also honored with this year’s Ripple of Hope award.
“As Bobby Kennedy taught us, the thing about hope is that it travels through space *and* time, first splashing against the rocks, but eventually breaking down the walls of cruelty and injustice,” Obama wrote on Twitter Wednesday night echoing his speech. “And if we do our best with the time we’re given, others will take hope in our example.”
Kerry Kennedy, the organization’s president and daughter of Robert Kennedy, presented the 44th president with the award for those who have “demonstrated a commitment to social change.”
“Bobby Kennedy was one of my heroes,” Obama said in a statement back in August when it was first announced he’d be receiving the award. “He was someone who showed us the power of acting on our ideals, the idea that any of us can be one of the ‘million different centers of energy and daring’ that ultimately combine to change the world for the better.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the organization RFK Human Rights’ founding and Kennedy’s historic campaign for the White House.
Past recipients of the Ripple of Hope award include Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Al Gore, John Lewis, Robert De Niro, Taylor Swift and George Clooney.
CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.