Obama Says Clinton Will Continue His Mission

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) — President Barack Obama reflected on his presidency and held up Hillary Clinton as the one to carry his torch for the next eight years in a hopeful speech to the Democratic National Convention Wednesday night.
     Obama claimed victory for some of the hallmark issues of his presidency, from the auto industry bailout to the Affordable Care Act and international relations, but promised that more fights remain. Hillary Clinton will see to it that the rest of his work is completed, Obama said.
     “For four years I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment and her discipline,” Obama said. “I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise or attention, that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion. I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.”
     The president, who defeated Clinton in a close primary race in 2008, called Clinton a hard-working, dedicated reformer capable of stepping into the White House and leading from her first day.
     “You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office,” Obama said. “You can read about it, you can study it, but until you’ve sat at that desk you don’t know what it’s like to manage a global crisis or send young people to war. But Hillary’s been in the room, she’s been part of those decisions.”
     Before Obama came out on stage, a lengthy video played over the large screens in the arena that recapped both the highs and the lows of his presidency. The film portrayed him as a solid, stoic leader who cares deeply about the choices he’s made.
     The crowd rose to its feet multiple times throughout the speech and people on the floor wiped away tears while the video played.
     Republican nominee Donald Trump was a frequent target of attacks from the speakers who took the stage on Wednesday night, and Obama portrayed the brash billionaire as a dangerous, unprepared candidate who stands in stark contrast to Clinton.
     Obama questioned how anyone could think Trump will stand for the working class given his history in business, and presented an alternative in Clinton.
     “But if you’re someone who’s truly concerned about paying your bills and seeing the economy grow and creating more opportunity for everybody, then the choice isn’t even close,” Obama said.
     When the audience in the arena booed the first mention of Trump’s name, Obama shut them down and instead called them to action.
     “Don’t boo. Vote,” Obama said.
     While the other speakers on Wednesday night criticized Trump’s lack of experience or plan, Obama presented a more hopeful rejection of Trump. He spoke of an America too strong to fall for Trump’s claim that he is the only one to keep it safe — and a people too united to be torn apart.
     “We are not a fragile or frightful people,” Obama said. “Our power doesn’t come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don’t look to be ruled.”
     Also latching onto a theme of the week that speakers have used to foster unity between supporters of Clinton and those who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary season, Obama emphasized the importance of the November election.
     “I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” Obama said. “In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person. And that, in the end, may be the biggest difference in this election — the meaning of our democracy.”
     Obama spoke to Sanders’ supporters in the audience directly, imploring them to bring the same vigorous campaigning they gave to the Vermont senator to the ills that still exist in the nation, and to get to the polls in November to back Democrats.
     “If you’re serious about this democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue,” Obama said, speaking of Clinton. “You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about ‘Yes, she will,’ it’s about ‘Yes, we can.'”
     At the end of his speech, Obama mused on the United States, speaking fondly of multiculturalism and promising a nation that is strong enough to take on any struggle that might face it. He spoke of the American people as the force that gave him strength in difficult times, and implored them to throw their support behind Clinton to continue his legacy.     
     “That is America,” Obama said. “Those bonds of affection, that common creed. We don’t fear the future, we shape it. We embrace it, as one people, stronger together than we are on our own. That’s what Hillary Clinton understands — this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother and grandmother, this public servant, this patriot — that’s the America she’s fighting for.”
     As Obama bathed in what is likely the last public adulation as President of the United States, Clinton joined him on stage — a night before she officially accepts her party’s nomination. The president and the nominee shared smiles and several private moments between waves to the convention crowd before striding off the stage, hand-in-hand.

Photo credit: Ryan Abbott/CNS

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