Chapel Hill, N.C. — President Barack Obama urged thousands of people at a Wednesday rally in Chapel Hill for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to vote in the coming days to affect the arc of their future.
In a fiery speech that matched the afternoon heat the crowd of more than 16,000 endured on the athletic practice fields outside Carmichael Arena at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Obama blasted North Carolina's nullified voter ID law along with people more concerned about the score of a game than taking time to cast a ballot.
"It's not often that you know your voice will have an impact. Don't let it slip away," he said. "If you don't vote, then you've done the work of those who would suppress your vote without them having to lift a finger. Come on."
Without mentioning Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump by name, Obama ridiculed his candidacy, calling him "ill-equipped to be president," and criticized his stances on immigrants, women and the military, among others.
"He's been able to convince some people he's going to be their voice," Obama said. "That is not the voice of America. That's not the better angels of our nature. We have a choice."
Obama praised Clinton for her experience and for the detailed plans she has laid out to continue building the U.S. economy, make college more affordable, expand renewable energy and maintain the nation's position on the global stage.
"Here's somebody who has dedicated her life to making this country better," he said. "She's an outstanding public servant, and she knows her stuff. She understands the challenges we face, and she is tough. When things don't go her way, she doesn't whine and she doesn't complain. She doesn't blame others, suggesting everything is rigged."
Obama said GOP officials and supporters should stop trying to justify Trump's brash behavior.
"What is crazy gets normalized," he said. "We need to stop thinking his behavior is normal."
The president also took aim at Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who was caught on tape last weekend suggesting that a photo of Clinton in a gun magazine should have a target on it. He has since apologized for the remark.
"You don't talk about violence against public officials, even in a joke," Obama said, adding that Burr is "mimicking Trump."
Burr has remained steadfast in his support for Trump, even as other Republican members of Congress have distanced themselves from the candidate in recent weeks. This week, he said he would try to block any appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court if Clinton wins the election.
"The problem is, this (rhetoric) is becoming normal. This is sort of the red meat they're throwing to their audiences," Obama said. "It's not normal, and it's not who North Carolina is.
"Let me be clear, there is something more at stake in this election than just plans or policies. This is about the character of our nation," he continued. "All of you are uniquely qualified to make sure this guy who is uniquely unqualified does not become president. You've just got to vote. You've just got to vote."
Many of those at the rally said they have already voted, but first-year UNC student Zeke Parsons said he thinks Obama's message will reach his friends who haven't.
"It's motivation," Parsons said. "Arguably the most important man in the world is telling you, 'This is your public duty.' This is like, think about the options and how much could go wrong if you don't vote, especially in such a battleground state as North Carolina."
Both Clinton and Trump plan to campaign in North Carolina on Thursday. Obama plans a return visit on Friday, and Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence also will be in the state on Friday.