In two days Nevadans will go to the polls to vote in what I believe is the most consequential presidential election of my life.
There is a reason, probably many, that President Barack Obama and all four of our living former presidents — Democrats and Republicans — do not support Donald Trump. At the very least, it is because they know what it takes to do the most difficult and demanding job on the planet.
The president is responsible not only for keeping more than 300 million Americans safe, but for moving our country forward in the way our Founding Fathers envisioned — helping to “create a more perfect union.”
I thought about writing on this subject today in a final effort to try to persuade those who haven’t voted to do so and those who are even thinking about voting for Trump to do something different.
Instead, I have decided to publish excerpts from President Obama’s speech this past Friday at Florida International University. He was speaking to our young people, our future and the reason most of us get up in the morning and try to make our country better than it was the day before.
His politics aside, I don’t believe anyone can disagree with the president’s commitment to this country, his ability, and the stability, focus and temperament he has brought to the job.
In short, he is one of a handful of people who can speak with experience about what it takes to be the president of the United States.
I know the speech is a bit long, but reading it should be an integral part of voting in this or any election. I recommend President Obama’s reasoning to each of you.
(Following are edited remarks given by President Barack Obama on Thursday at the Hillary for America Rally at Florida International University in Miami):
'Finish what we started'
Florida, we got five more days. Five more days to decide the future of this country that we love. The point is, we got work to do to finish what we started eight years ago.
Now, I have to say that I’ve been going to some college campuses and I realize that, eight years ago, some of you were 10. But for those of you who maybe were a little older and might remember, in 2008, we were living through two long wars, and we were about to enter into the worst economic crisis in the last 80 years. But you know what, because of some hard work, we turned the page. America has now battled back. Last year, incomes rose faster than any time at least since 1968. Poverty fell at the fastest rate at least since 1968. We’ve created 15 million new jobs. Twenty million have health insurance that didn’t have it. We’ve kicked our addiction to foreign oil.
You know, can I just say, I was driving through North Carolina yesterday and we passed by a gas station. I noticed gas at $1.99. The reason I make this point is, because I think in 2008 they were predicting that if Obama got elected, gas would be $6. It turns out what they said was wrong. So what that means is, what they’re saying now is probably also wrong.
Obama. $2 a gallon gas. So kicked our addiction on foreign oil. Doubled our production of clean energy. Have done more to battle climate change than any time in our history. We’re world leaders on that. We brought home more of our men and women in uniform. Took out Osama bin Laden. Are systematically rolling up ISIL in Iraq. And, by the way, back home we’ve made sure that in all 50 states people have the freedom to marry who they love.
So there’s a reason that I’ve got gray hair — because I’ve been busy. And most of all, across these 50 states that I’ve traveled, what I’ve seen is the thing that really makes America great: You.
I’ve seen the American people — people of every party, every faith, every race, every region — people who know we’re stronger together. Young and old folks; men and women; black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; folks with disabilities; gay, straight folks — it doesn’t matter — all of us pledging allegiance to the red, white, and blue. That’s the America I know. That’s the America we love. And there is only one candidate in this race who has devoted her life to building up that America — and that is the next president of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton.
Now, make no mistake, Florida — all the progress we’ve made goes out the window if we don’t win this election. So we’ve got to work our hearts out this week. We got to work like our future depends on it, because it actually depends on it. And listen, especially for the young people out there, I know for some of you this is your first election where you’ve been paying attention. And you’re out there and you’re looking it, and you’re saying, man, this is really nasty. Generally, D.C. is not so much of a battleground. But down here, it’s just like every ad is just depressing. And there’s negative ads, and there’s noise, and there’s distractions. And sometimes the temptation is to tune it out.
Not our voice
But it’s tempting to want to not really focus on our government and our politics. But this election is critical. And the good news is, once you get past all the noise and all the distractions, and all the okie-doke, the choice could not be clearer, because Donald Trump is uniquely unqualified to be president. No, I’m not joking. You laugh. I’m not joking. He is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief.
Here’s a guy who says he’s a great businessman. But it seems like a lot of his business is built around stiffing small businesses and workers out of what he owes them — work they’ve done. He thinks it’s cute, or smart, or funny to basically not pay somebody who’s done work for him and say, go ahead and sue me because I got more money than you, and you can’t do anything about it. It’s not fair.
Here’s somebody who, for decades, has refused to release any tax returns. And now maybe it’s because he’s not as rich as he says is, but he has admitted he does not pay federal income taxes for years. Not a dime. So he’s not helping to support our troops or our veterans. He’s not helping to build roads or build schools or help young people finance a college education because he’s not putting anything in. He’s taken a lot out but hasn’t put anything in.
He says that he’s going to be his own foreign policy adviser. He says that’s because he’s got a good brain. Now, I won’t opine on his brain. What I can say is that anybody who suggests that America should torture people, or ban entire religions from entering America, or insults POWs, or attacks a Gold Star Mom or talks down about our troops, that’s not somebody who’s fit to be president.
But you know what, we have to be honest. He’s got support here in Florida. He’s got some support around the country. No, he does. If he didn’t, then I wouldn’t have to go around and get everybody to vote. He’s got some support.
And the most frustrating thing is, some of his support is coming from working folks. People say, well, you know, he’s going to be our voice. Are you serious? This is the guy who spent 70 years — his whole life — born with a silver spoon, showing no respect for working people. He’s spent a lot of time with celebrities. Spends a lot of time hanging out with the really wealthy folk. But you don’t see him hanging out with working people unless they’re cleaning his room or mowing the fairways on his golf club. You’re going to make this guy your champion if you’re a working person? Come on.
Somebody who spent his life without ever showing any regard for working folks. But he has insulted minorities, and immigrants, and Muslims, and Americans with disabilities. That’s the voice you want?
You want a voice who’s bragging about how being famous lets you get away with what would qualify as sexual assault, and calls women pigs, and dogs, and slobs? And when he pays attention to women, it’s because he’s grading them on a scale of one to ten. What kind of message are we sending if that’s our voice?
I tell you what, we’re going to teach our kids, I want to teach all American kids that our diversity is our strength. That, in America, it’s not about what you look like, but who you are, and what you do, and what your character is. That women are not just full and equal citizens; they may be a lot more capable of doing what a man can do.
But the problem is it’s become normal when somebody just says wacky stuff. As long as they’re famous, we think it’s OK. I mean, and you hear people justifying it. They’re all like, well, you know, he may be — that’s just locker room talk; or I don’t really like what he’s saying, but as long as he supports Republican policies and he cuts taxes for the wealthy, that’s what I care about — saying character doesn’t matter.
Let me tell you something about this office that I’ve been in for eight years. Who you are, what you are does not change after you occupy the Oval Office. All it does is magnify who you are. If you disrespected women before you were in office, you will disrespect women as president. If you accept the support of Klan sympathizers before you are president, you will accept their support after you’re president. If you disrespect the Constitution before you’re president, and threaten to shut down the press when it says something you don’t like, or threaten to throw your opponent in jail in a live presidential debate without any regard for due process; if you discriminate against people of different faiths before you are president, then that is what you will do in office, except you will have more power to carry out the twisted notions that you had before you were in office.
So you can’t make excuses for this stuff. This isn’t a joke. This isn’t “Survivor.” This isn’t “The Bachelorette.” This counts. This has to do with what’s going to happen in your family, in your community, to soldiers and veterans, the safety of our kids.
We aren’t born Democrats or Republicans — we’re Americans first. And I have good friends who are Republicans. And I know they don’t think this way about women. They don’t think this way about Muslims. They don’t think this way about immigrants. This is — what they are doing is something different entirely. It is different from what we have seen before.
And the good news is all of you are uniquely qualified to make sure that this uniquely unqualified person does not become president. And all you’ve got to do is make sure that you go out there and you vote.
And the other good news is you have a candidate who’s actually worthy of your vote. Somebody who is smart. Somebody who is steady. Somebody who is tested, perhaps the most qualified person ever to run for this office — our next president, Hillary Clinton.
This is somebody who has dedicated her life to making this country better. Think about how she got her start. While Donald Trump and his developer dad were being sued by the Justice Department for denying housing to African American families, Hillary was going undercover from school to school to make sure minority kids were getting an equal shot at a good education.
She has not stopped fighting for justice, fighting for equality ever since. Her heart has always been in the right place. Works hard every single day. I know. She worked hard when she was running against me. I was worn out. She worked hard when she was working for me. She was there in the Situation Room as my secretary of state, making the argument to go after bin Laden even when it was risky. Circled the globe as secretary of state. Earned the respect of world leaders.
Her efforts weren’t always flashy. They weren’t always fully appreciated — which is true for a lot of the work that women do, by the way. She made me a better president. She understands policy. She understands how the world works. She understands that this stuff that we do, the challenges we face aren’t abstract. They mean something to real people.
And she knows the decisions you make as president mean something to that soldier or that veteran or our military families; that a parent who’s trying to make ends meet, they need a president who cares and knows that they’re doing; that a student trying to go to college for the first time needs somebody with an actual plan to help them; that a young person who was brought to this country as a child, has never known another country, is American by every standard except they don’t have a piece of paper. She knows they need to have a chance to get back to this country they love.
She’s got plans that will actually help these people. She’s going to be a leader who actually values hard work, respects working Americans. And she will be an outstanding commander in chief because she’s been in the room when tough decisions were made.
You worried about keeping America safe? She’ll do it. Because she knows our military and knows our diplomats. She doesn’t just talk about it. She doesn’t play one on TV. She’s been there.
Much at stake
This election is is about more than just plans, policies. There’s something more fundamental at stake. What’s at stake is the character of our nation. You know, when Hillary was young, her mom taught her the Methodist creed: Do all you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways that you can, for as long as you can. That’s what guides her. That’s her North Star. She believes that we can summon the best in this country and make it better for all people, not just some. That’s what America is all about, isn’t it?
We’re a country like no other, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, not because of the size of our military. It’s because this is a place founded on an idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men and women are created equal. That we’re all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. You don’t have to be born to wealth or privilege. You don’t have to have a certain last name or look a certain way, or do your hair a certain style. You just got to be willing to contribute. You just got to be willing to work. You just got to care enough about other people and making sure everybody has got a fair shot. And if you do that — if you do that, then you’re a patriot, and you can contribute to this country that you love. And you can go as far as your dreams can take you. That’s what makes this place special.
That’s what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny; to found this nation. And that’s what led GIs to liberate a continent. That’s what led women to march to get the ballot. That’s what led marchers to cross a bridge in Selma to win their rights. That’s what allowed workers to organize for collective bargaining and better wages. That’s what’s made America exceptional. That’s what’s always made America great. We’ve never been about just doing for ourselves. It’s been about what we can do together.
It’s about what can be achieved by us, the people, together, through the hard, slow, and, yes, sometimes frustrating work of self-government. That’s not what Donald Trump stands for, but it is what Hillary stands for. We recognize that issues aren’t always black and white, and sometimes you got to compromise even when you are right. She knows none of us are perfect, but she knows that those of us who have been blessed with positions of leadership should try to conduct ourselves with the sense of decency and good-heartedness that can set an example for our kids.
And I know Hillary will do that. I know she will continue the progress we’ve made.
You know, I know a lot of you are cynical about politics. There’s a lot about this election that gives you reason to be. But I’m here to tell you, right now, you have a chance to move history in a better direction. You have a chance to reject divisive politics and mean-spirited politics. You have a chance to elect a leader who has spent her entire life trying to move this country forward, the first female president, who can be an example for our sons and our daughters. You have the chance to shape history, and I want young people to understand, those moments don’t come that often.
You know, there are times where history is movable. Where you can make things better or worse. This is one of those moments. And it’s in your hands. This incredible power that each of you have. I know you care about a lot of issues, young people. I’ve heard from you. I’ve seen you march for criminal justice reform. That’s great. But if you care about criminal justice reform, it’s not just enough to protest — you’ve also got vote for a president, and Congress, and prosecutors who care about disrupting that pipeline of underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, and make sure that the criminal justice system is accountable and fair.
I know there are a lot of young people who care about the environment and climate change. I’ve heard you. But you’ve got to have a president and a Congress who believes in science and who cares about climate change, and who will protect the progress we’ve made, and want to leave a better planet for our kids.
If you’ve been working on immigration reform, I’ve been working too. But if we’re going to finish the job, you’ve got to have a president and a Congress who sees in immigrants not criminals or rapists, but people who have the same dreams and aspirations, and who care about this country, and who want to contribute and give back to it.
My point is, your vote matters. It’s because of you that 20 million people have health insurance that didn’t have it. It’s because of you that there are young people who got Pell grants and could go to college who couldn’t before. It’s because of you that a Marine can serve his country without hiding the husband that he loves. It’s because of you that young DREAMers have been able to come out of the shadows and are serving our country and are going to school. It’s because of you that we made this progress.
So, Florida, and young people especially, I’m asking you the same thing I asked of you eight years ago. I’m asking you to believe — not just in my ability to change things, one person’s ability to change things, even. I’m not just asking you to believe in Hillary’s ability to change things. I’m asking you to believe in your ability to change things.
You remember my slogan wasn’t “Yes, I Can.” It was “Yes, We Can.” And I’m not on the ballot this time. But fairness is on the ballot. Decency is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. All the progress we’ve made is on the ballot. Immigration reform is on the ballot. A higher minimum wage is on the ballot. Equal pay for equal work is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Hillary Clinton will move us forward if you give her a chance. And if we win Florida, we will win this election, and it’s in your hands.
So go out there and vote. Get your friends to vote. Get your family to vote. Get your cousins, and neighbors, and coworkers to vote. Tell them that this is the moment where America makes a stand about who we are and what we believe. Tell them this is the moment we reject cynicism and reject fear. This is the moment we choose hope.
Go out there are vote. And if you do, we will elect Hillary Clinton the next president. We’ll continue this amazing journey. We will finish what we started. We will show the world why America is the greatest nation on Earth. I love you guys. Bye-bye.
Brian Greenspun is owner, editor and publisher of the Sun.