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American Promise

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On Friday, November 22, 2013, Americans will pause to reflect on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago on November 22, 1963. I, like many throughout the world, can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when news of the president reach us. I was just a kid, but like so many other kids throughout the nation, our home was one that had an actual oil painting of the president hanging in our living room. Like so many others, I remember the shock and sadness I felt when we realized that the president was dead.

That sadness, that feeling of loss was in large measure due to the fact that even as a young elementary school kid, I felt the hope and promise of a future. I felt the passion of many Americans in the promised change that the nation was embarked upon. It was a time in this nation's history when there were so many who really were profiles in courage. Who were people defining an era, defining progress, defining a belief that America could live up to the promise of its founders; and the dreams of those who crossed an ocean to be free; or those who crossed the ocean as slaves, but never relented on their determination to be free.

We lived during that time, when faith and promise is what drove us to be as good as we could. In 1963 America, you could wake any morning to heroes, like Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.; or Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.; Malcolm X, or Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay, then) who was already well on the way to being the people's champion and the champion of professional boxing. You could not go out of your home and not encounter those who were educating you as to your full potential; who were motivating you to take action for a better world, better community, and a better life.

There was a passion about freedom; about change, about ability and about collective work that could make America a better place for all. President Kennedy stood as one of those giants. Not without flaws and not perfect by any means, but someone who saw what the future could be and wanted to get there. It was Kennedy who urged the nation to explore space. In his speech at Rice University in September 1963 he told the nation that "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win."

Kennedy's urgings were not unlike others, like Dr. King who famously urged us that year to dream beyond our condition and see the world of tomorrow where we would be judge by the "content of their character."

Today, America faces new challenges and the question is whether we are as big and as passionate as we were as a nation decades ago, where the word "can't" did not exist. It didn't exist for Ali's quest to be the "greatest of all time" or Kennedy's belief that we held in our hands the ability to abolish poverty.

America's quest for affordable health care for all has been a challenge that has plagued this nation for well over 50 years. In 2008 we elected a president, Barack Obama, who was willing to make it one of the signature efforts of his presidency. Affordable Health Care should not be a partisan issue; it should be an American issue. While we as a nation should not excuse failure to design a website that works, we likewise should not be so short sighted as to think that such a glitch should derail the desire of most Americans to have access to the health care they deserve and can afford.

President Obama was right to acknowledge the flaws in the website, and even to apologize for the promise he made about keeping your current plan if you chose. He is, however, even more right to continue to lead the nation to fix the problem and proceed on the road to an America that has accomplished another dream; Affordable Health Care. As President Kennedy suggested 50 years ago, we know that this will not be easy, but will be hard. America can and will win on this issue of providing its citizens quality and affordable health care.

Michael A. Hardy, Esq. is General Counsel and Executive Vice-President to National Action Network (NAN). He has been involved in many of this nation's highest profiled cases involving violations of civil or human rights. He continues to supervise National Action Network's crisis unit and hosts a monthly free legal clinic at NAN New York City's House of Justice