GREENSBORO — President Barack Obama campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Tuesday night, consistently reminding voters about the stakes of the 2016 presidential election.
Appealing to young people frustrated with the political process, Obama urged his supporters to back Clinton and join the fight against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“There are a lot of things about our politics that can sometimes seem cheap and trivial and frustrating,” Obama said. “I know, I’ve seen it. But here’s a chance to reject divisive, mean-spirited politics that would just take us backwards.”
Obama frequently returned to the theme of divisiveness as he spoke critically of Trump and Republicans who refuse to stand up to him.
“You can’t repeatedly denounce what is said by someone and then say, ‘But I’m still gonna endorse him to be the most powerful man on the planet,’ and then put him in charge,” Obama said, referencing Trump’s lewd comments about women in a recently leaked video.
“I just wanted to make that point because there are a number of Republican elected officials ... They can’t bring themselves to say, ‘I can’t endorse this guy,’” he said.
Obama instructed the 8,000 people in attendance at the outdoor White Oak Amphitheatre not to fall for, “the easy cynicism that says your vote doesn’t matter.”
He added that Millennials should take particular issue with Trump’s comments because they do not reflect Millennial values of kindness and generosity.
“What I’ve seen from young people is that you care about looking out for each other — not turning on each other,” he said. “The young people I meet are more tolerant, and they are more sophisticated.”
N.C. A&T State University senior Nhandi Johnson said she previously supported Sen. Bernie Sanders but plans to vote for Clinton because of her dislike of Trump.
“I’m going to vote for Clinton because I can’t let the other guy win,” Johnson said.
Johnson was enthused to see the president speak near her college and hoped Obama would persuade her to be a more supportive Clinton voter.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us,” she said of the Obama event. “I never really got to see the president in real life, so it’s one of those opportunities where you just don’t pass it up. I want to hear what he has to say about Clinton to make me feel better about voting for her in the upcoming election.”
Ashley Koonce is a 26-year-old former English teacher who said she’s the great-great-granddaughter of slaves, and it means a lot to her to see an African-American president in office. She said she’s excited about the possibility of the first female president.
“It means anything is possible,” she said. “When I was in kindergarten, they told us that we could become president, but we didn’t really believe them. But now, it can really happen. It just really means that anything can happen.”
Though Obama spoke to a boisterous crowd, his speech was interrupted three times by protesters who were escorted out of the event.
The first came as two protesters walked to the front row and flashed t-shirts that called former President Bill Clinton a rapist.
“This is the great thing about politics in America,” Obama replied as the two protesters were removed. “It just — it takes all kinds. Folks will just do all kinds of stuff."
Another disturbance involved a man who stood up, turned to face the audience and ripped a blue Hillary Clinton campaign sign in half.
As the audience booed, Obama reminded them to vote, not boo.
Arguing that Trump is unfit for the presidency, Obama said Clinton would be capable of working with both Democrats and Republicans and would be qualified to run the country.
“It’s helpful when you’re president of the United States to know what you’re talking about,” he said, “Come on, people. Come on. This isn’t an audition for like some show. This ain’t a show. She’s got specific ideas."
Obama concluded his rally by urging attendees to flood to the polls to cast their ballots for Clinton because the nation cannot afford a Trump presidency.
“When he asks you what you have to lose, the answer is you’ve got everything to lose,” he said. “All the progress we’ve made these last eight years is on the ballot. Civility is on the ballot. Respect for women is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot.”