At the University of Central Florida Friday night, a triumphant-sounding Barack Obama made a bold declaration to voters — in this election, no less than the direction of America was at stake.

The president, no doubt buoyed by resurgent popularity and comforted by the realization that the end is near, proclaimed fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton a worthy bearer of his progressive legacy.

“This is the moment where America has to take a stand and decide what it is what we believe in and who we are,” Obama told 9,000 people inside the CFE Arena, and a reported 7,000 more outside.

“And we’re not going to believe in fear. Instead, we’re going to lift up hope. If you want hope instead of fear, then you will elect Hillary Clinton as president of the United States!”

That stand, in Obama’s words, is for a more progressive America.

In his 42-minute speech, Obama acknowledged he didn’t accomplish everything he wanted, and that he made some mistakes.

But he did boast a list of accomplishments: 20 million more people on health insurance, reducing dependence on foreign oil, recognizing global warming and fighting to reduce carbon emissions. He also promoted his expansion of Civil Rights, preservation of abortion rights, the fight for women’s rights, reduced unemployment, increased wages, and the creation of a country where “You can marry the person you love.”

“Across the board, by almost every measure,” he said, “we are significantly better off now than we were eight years ago.”

“All the progress we’ve made over the last eight years goes out the window if we don’t win this election,” he added.

Obama seldom mentioned Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s name — calling him “that other guy” — but repeatedly compared him with Clinton, characterizing the Democratic candidate as prepared and optimistic, while Trump was unprepared and fear mongering.

At one point, Obama praised Clinton as a meticulous hard-worker, who knows issues in depth, accusing Trump of “just making stuff up.”

“You don’t want at the slacker as your president,” he said. “You want somebody that knows what they’re talking about.”

Using his speech in front of a college student-dominated crowd, Obama pushed for the election of Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy over Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Obama criticized Rubio for taking many of the conservative stands that he said would end many of his progressive initiatives, including a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, opposing abortion, walking away from comprehensive immigration reform and “the Latino community;” and not believing in climate change.

That led the crowd, which often cheered Obama with defining, high screams — as if at a 1964 Beatles concert — to chant, “Patrick, Patrick, Patrick.”

But the chant never gained momentum and died off pretty quickly.

When Obama took a brief swipe at Trump’s comments about and alleged behavior toward women, a man in the back of the arena climbed over the railing of the upper deck, positioned himself on folded-back risers, and began shouting: “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”

It went on for several minutes before an Orange County deputy sheriff managed to talk him back over the railing and escorted him out.

Obama described an optimistic and diverse America, saying, “That’s the America I love.

“That’s why through all the ups and downs I haven’t been worried about this country,” he continued.

“Because, I’ve seen the heart and soul of the American people, and it is good, and it is decent, and it is strong, and it is resilient, and there is only one candidate in this race who I believe can continue the progress that we’ve made, and I know that because she’s been working all her life to make America better. And that’s the next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.”

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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