President Barack Obama visits UNH
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The college town of Durham has seen numerous Democratic and Republican political endorsements over the past two months, but it was the eve of Election Day that saw the biggest one yet: an appearance from President Barack Obama.
Though the presidential visit to UNH was the main attraction of the event that took place on Nov. 7 in the Whittemore Center, Obama was just one of nine Democratic voices that spoke on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the other Democratic candidates who will be on the voting ballot across the state of New Hampshire.
The other speakers at the Democratic rally included, in order of appearance: filmmaker Ken Burns, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, New Hampshire Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster, New Hampshire governor candidate Colin Van Ostern, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.
Shaheen and Hassan, the last of the eight to speak before Obama, had the dual honor of welcoming the president to the stage.
Obama received applauds and cheering from the crowd that lasted almost a minute as he stepped up to the podium; his choice of opening the speech with the, “It’s a great day to be a Wildcat” chant further escalated the enthusiasm in the room.
Acknowledging that this may be his last big campaign event while holding office as the president, he opened the speech with a thanks to grass roots organizers who he described as “very special people who put everything they had into the campaign.”
On the topic of the presidential decision that will soon be made by the America voting body, Obama said, “we can choose the politics of blame, divisiveness and resentment or we could choose the politics that says we are stronger together. Tomorrow, we will choose whether we continue the journey of progress or whether it goes out the window.”
Reflecting on the last eight years of his tenure, Obama made note in his speech of some of his administrations’ successes, though he didn’t go into detail on any of them. Instead, he stressed outlook for the inclusiveness of the United States.
“Over these eight years, across all 50 states, I have seen what always made America great. I see you, the American people,” he said. “Not just Democrats, but people of every part, people of every faith who know we’re stronger together.”
In describing New Hampshire as both a small and an important state, Obama noted that there are some scenarios where Clinton won’t win the election if she doesn’t win the Granite State.
“I know it’s been a long campaign…I want you to focus, because the choice you face when you step into that voting booth could not be clearer; Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be commander in chief,” Obama said while also making note of how the campaign for the republican nominee recently took away his Twitter access. “If your closest advisors don’t trust [him] to Tweet, how can you trust with the nuclear codes.”
According to Obama, “who you are” and “what you are” doesn’t change once an individual walks into the Oval Office, rather it magnifies and shines a spotlight on who the person really is.
“If you denigrate minorities when you’re running for office…that will be how you conduct yourself in office,” he said.
Speaking on how this election is different from previous, he noted that because of the way that the campaigns have gone this year, the American people seem to have accepted such bizarre situations as normal.
The other eight speakers of the night expressed similar approval and faith in Clinton, and complete lack-there-of for her opponent.
Burns, who spoke first, was the only individual to speak at the rally that isn’t currently holding political office in either the state or national level, and according to him, he was there to offer some historical perspective.
“I have to say right off the bat that there isn’t a historian I know whose alarm bells aren’t ringing this election year,” Burns said. “There is simply no American precedent for this, and as the father of four daughters, I’m here to try to protect them. You, the voters, are their salvation.”
In drawing similarities between Obama and the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, Burns said, “I happen to be partial to tall, thin lawyers from Illinois… For 216 years our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year.” Referencing Trump, Burns said that one candidate is “glaringly not qualified.”
“Before you do anything else, you must do everything you can to defeat the dark forces that have invaded our Democratic process, divided our houses; to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the aligned but subtle art of governance,” Burns said.
Kelly and Giffords’ focused much of their speech on the topic of gun control.
“Clinton is the only candidate in this race who has the courage to stand up to the Washington gun lobby, has the record to prove it, and a plan to bring an America for our kids and grandkids that has less gun violence, not more,” Kelly said. “We need to make sure New Hampshire is the launch pad that puts [Clinton and her vice president nominee, Tim Kaine] on the trajectory to the White House with all the energy and speed that they need to lead our country so that we can be stronger together.”
“Clinton is tough. Clinton is courageous. Clinton will fight to make our families safer,” Giffords, a victim of an assassination attempt in January 2011, said. “In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby and that’s why I’m voting for [Clinton].”
Shea-Porter, who is currently running for reelection in Congress, urged the event’s crowd to carry out the democratic action of participating in Election Day.
“We all know how serious this [election] really is, but there are more of us: more people who have a positive vision for this country, more people who believe in love and that love can trump hate,” Shea-Porter said. “We are going to save the country tomorrow. As my good friend Elizabeth Warren says, ‘This man will not be president.’”
Urging the audience to vote all Democratic on the ballot, Shea-Porter said that such an action might lead Clinton to having a “golden ticket of people she could work with to move this country forward.”
According to Kuster, there is no one more committed to the collective goals of the Democratic party than Clinton, but she “can’t do it alone, so [they] need to elect Democrats up and down the ticket who will work with her and pursue [their] shared goals.”
In describing this election, Kuster said it is “about our values, about equality, about civility, it’s about diversity and it’s about opportunity,” but for many that “it’s personal.” In this regard, she mentioned issues such a wage inequality and matters concerning sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Van Ostern spent much of his time onstage discussing the positive influence that he believed Obama has had on the United States while also talking on the changes that he would make as governor.
“I see a future where we keep taxes low but we raise raises, a future where we treat our fellow citizens with dignity, equality and with respect that is really the New Hampshire way,” Van Ostern said. “A future where we stop playing political games with a woman’s right to choose.”
The final two speeches before Obama took the stage were made by the duo of Shaheen and Hassan, with both of the respective speeches reflecting their support of the current president and the policies he has implemented during his candidacy.
Speaking in regard to the Obama administration’s progress, Shaheen said, “The best thank you that we can give to them after all the sacrifices that they made for us and for America is to make sure that those sacrifices weren’t in vain; we need to build on the progress of the past eight years.”
According to Shaheen, every time that Trump has attacked Clinton on personal matters, it has affected women all across the country.
“When [Trump] made those attacks, he struck a cord with us, and you know, we nasty women vote,” Shaheen said while receiving loud enthusiasm from the crowd. “On Tuesday, we can reject the bigotry, the hatred, the nastiness and name calling of Donald Trump, and we can instead elect a woman who has knowledge and temperament to do to the job, and understands that America is stronger together.”
Toward the end of Obama’s speech and on the topic of his working relationship with Clinton, he said, “ I know [her], I ran against [her]. She worked for me, and this is somebody who has dedicated her life to making this country better.”
The rally brought in a crowd of approximately 8,000, a large increase from the 1,200 individuals who attended the Sept. 29 UNH campaign event that Clinton held with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
“The importance of bringing out such a big name, like the president of the United States, is that the people down ballot got a platform with a lot of people and a lot of people to talk to,” UNH College Democrats President Elena Ryan said. “This allows them to showcase their agendas and their support for the party.”
In describing what she saw at the event, Ryan said that attendees were incredibly enthusiastic and displayed a high amount of support for the president and all of the other individuals who spoke.