WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned plea to the African-American community Saturday night to help stop Donald Trump, saying he would consider it a “personal insult” to his legacy if black voters didn’t turn out for Hillary Clinton.
Addressing the Congressional Black Caucus gala for the last time as president, Obama warned that while his name would not be on the ballot in November, all of the progress that the country has made over the last eight years was on the line.
“If I hear anybody saying their vote does not matter, that it doesn’t matter who we elect — read up on your history. It matters. We’ve got to get people to vote,” Obama said. “I will consider it a personal insult — an insult to my legacy — if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election. You want to give me a good sendoff? Go vote.”
Obama’s speech — coming less than two months away from Election Day — marked some of his harshest words yet about Trump, as well as his most forceful call on the black community to get behind Clinton.
His remarks also had lighter moments — particularly as he addressed the so-called “birther” controversy. The second-term president began his speech by remarking: “There’s an extra spring in my step tonight. I don’t know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole ‘birther’ thing is over.”
Chuckling, the President said, “I mean: ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change — none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate. And to think: that with just a 124 days to go, under the wire, we got that resolved.”
Obama was referring to Trump’s admission this week that the president was born in the United States. Trump has long supported the birther theory, raising questions about Obama’s birthplace and demanding that the president present his birth certificate as proof of his origin.
Obama’s tone, however, soon turned serious as he outlined what he said was at stake in the election.
“You may have heard Hillary’s opponent in this election say that there’s never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow,” Obama said. “But we’ve got a museum for him to visit, so he can tune in. We will educate him.”
In harsh rebuke of Trump, Obama referred to the businessman as “somebody who has fought against civil rights and fought against equality and who has shown no regard for working people most of his life.”
On Trump’s quest to win over African-American voters, Obama quipped: “Well, we do have challenges, but we’re not stupid.”
Clinton lauds Obama
Speaking moments before the president, Clinton lauded Obama and also took on the birther controversy that has been swirling.
“Even when hateful nonsense is thrown their way, Barack, Michelle, their two beautiful daughters have represented our country with class, grace and integrity,” said Clinton, who served as Obama’s secretary of state.
She added, “Mr. President, not only do we know you are an American, you are a great American.”
Clinton, who accepted the group’s “Trailblazer Award” on Saturday night for becoming the first female presidential candidate for a major political party, nodded to Trump when she said that the choice in November “is not about golf course promotions or birth certificates, it comes down to who will fight for the forgotten.”
“We can’t let Barack Obama’s legacy fall into the hands of someone who doesn’t understand that, whose dangerous divisive vision for our country will drag us backwards,” she said, though she never mentioned Trump’s name.
Obamas stumping for Clinton
Clinton’s campaign is relying on the Obamas to help persuade the coalition of minorities, young people and women who propelled them to the White House to cast ballots for this year’s Democratic candidate. The President made his first solo appeal this week, appearing at a campaign rally in Philadelphia and phoning in to African-American radio to talk up Clinton.
“I get frustrated hearing folks say, ‘You know, we’re so excited with Barack, we love Michelle, they take Hillary for granted,'” Obama told syndicated host Frankie Darcell. “This is not a reality show. This is not something where it’s all flash and fizzle.”
On Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama made her first campaign appearance of 2016, trying to convince her and her husband’s supporters at a Virginia rally that Clinton is also worthy of their votes.
“When I hear folks saying they’re not inspired this this election, I disagree. I am inspired,” she said, urging the crowd to register to vote and actually cast ballots for Clinton.