JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- President Obama visited the University of North Florida on Thursday to campaign on Hillary Clinton’s behalf.
The line to get into the university’s arena was at least a mile long. A diverse group stood in the sun with Clinton shirts, stickers, pins and hats. But, the first two people in line, despite pledging their vote to Hillary, were there to see Obama.
Alexis Kmieck, 19 and Alvaro Barrios, 18, drove all the way from Florida State to see Obama and had been waiting in line since 1 a.m. on Thursday.
“I am a huge fan of him, this is my first time ever seeing him speak in person, my first time ever seeing a president so I am very excited,” Kmieck said.
She wanted Obama to hammer home the importance of voting in this particular election.
“It is very important [to vote] because of who we are against and what he stands for,” she said.
Obama did not disappoint Kmieck or the other 6,000 attendees, nor the 2,000 who watched on large screens, unable to get into the packed arena. Obama came to UNF to energize the Clinton vote in two places it was lacking: the millennials and the African-American vote and both were in heavy attendance.
While endorsing Hillary, he spoke directly to the youth, sympathizing with the disenfranchisement he said some youth may feel when faced with this election. Emphasizing the importance of voting and of understanding the issues before them, Obama said that choosing Hillary was choosing progress over Trump, who the president said would set the country back.
Tarrion Blanford had been waiting in line for two hours when First Coast News encountered her at around 11 a.m., however she was nearly ¼ mile away from the arena in a long line.
At just 19, this will be Blanford’s first time voting and she said, “I’m with her.”
“She’s genuine, she’s a great nasty woman,” Blanford laughed when she made a slight nod to an insult that republican nominee Trump had thrown Clinton’s way, but she was in line to hear Obama support her chosen candidate. She wanted some inspiring words about Hillary to get Clinton’s “hype up.”
“My generation, we’re a little torn because Donald trump is horrible and the media makes Hillary look bad as well – I feel like this is what’s going to make us realize like, ‘Hey President Barack Obama is saying she is the one for us,’” Belford said.
She said she hopes that this rally helps to get the black youth vote numbers up.
“It’s our right, it’s our right to vote, this is our way of helping America. This is the only way we can come together and make some kind of decision, some type of say so, in this world.”
Her thoughts also echoed Obama’s.
He said, “My saying wasn’t 'Yes I Can', it’s 'Yes We Can!'" Obama emphasized putting the power into the people’s hands, saying the only way that people could create change was to vote, and better yet, vote early. During Obama’s speech, he pushed hard for early voting, even citing the nearest early voting location, 10599 Deerwood Park Blvd., at the Public Library.
Obama not only made an argument for why Clinton was the best candidate, but also for democrat Patrick Murphy who was in attendance and is going up against Marco Rubio in this upcoming election. Obama said that, unlike Rubio, Murphy showed up to work and would help Clinton bring progress to America.
Progress that can only exist, according to Obama, when there is not gridlock that occurs when Republicans shoot down the ideas of Democrats, just because of party line ideals, sometimes in spite of how it may be good for the American people.
However, he was quick to say that he did not harbor hard feelings against all Republicans. Obama said when he ran for president in 2008 and 2012, he did not agree with his opponents, but he did not fear for the safety of the American people or Democracy as an entity.
Obama does worry, however, about the presidency is handed to Donald Trump. These words were underscored with the need to vote just as any other point made by the president.
“He is temperamentally unfit,” Obama said of Trump, gaining a loud cheer from the crowd.
But no cheer was louder than when Obama did the infamous UNF Swoop.
All early voting polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Nov. 6. Non-early voting takes place Nov. 8.