Delegates welcomed the president with thunderous applause, the man who first appeared before them 12 years earlier as an Illinois State Senator. It will be the last time that he addresses delegates as president, and this may have been his best speech. "I stand before you again tonight, after almost two terms as president, to tell you I am even more optimistic about the future of America," he told delegates.
The president highlighted his achievements in office, including guiding the country out of the worst recession in 80 years, saving the auto industry, creating 15 million new jobs, enacting the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to millions, the growth of clean energy, a global climate agreement, a nuclear agreement with Iran, the opening of relations with Cuba, and the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. He also highlighted his actions on immigration, student loans, consumer protection and marriage equality. "By so many measures, our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started," the president asserted.
"I am here to tell you yes, we have more work to do," the president continued. He pointed to those still in need of jobs or a raise, paid leave, a decent retirement, and to children in poverty, and called for safer streets and a fairer criminal justice system. "That work involves a big choice this November," he said. "This is a more fundamental choice about who we are as a people."
President Obama then said, "But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican -- and it sure wasn't conservative. What we heard was a very pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn from the rest of the world." He continued, "There were no serious solutions to pressing problems -- just the fanning of resentment, and blame, and anger, and hate. And that's not the America I know."
The president then made a strong case for Hillary Clinton, describing her as a leader with plans to break down barriers, blast through glass ceilings, and to give opportunity to more Americans. "That's the Hillary I know. That's the Hillary I've come to admire. And that is why I can say with confidence there has never been a man or woman, not me, not Bill (Clinton), nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America."
President Obama then harshly attacked Trump. "He's not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy either," he said. "Does anyone really believe that a guy who's spent his 70 years on the earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion?" President Obama then criticized Trump for calling America's military a disaster, for suggesting America is weak, for cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, for praising Iraq's late dictator Saddam Hussein, and telling NATO allies they will have to pay for U.S. protection.
Saying that Trump just offers slogans and fear, he countered that, "America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump." Later, he added, "Our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don't look to be ruled."
President Obama then returned to the spirit, values and character of the American people, "The American Dream is something no wall will ever contain." He said that America is about what we can achieve together, "not about what one person says he'll do for us." Then, acknowledging the "vocal and persistent" supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, he urged delegates to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.
Calling Hillary Clinton a fighter, a stateswoman, a patriot, he said, "That's the America she is fighting for." He concluded his speech by saying, "I am asking you to join me--to reject cynicism, to reject fear, to summon what's best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next President of the United States, and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation."
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss described Obama's speech on MSNBC as the best endorsement ever given in convention history by an incumbent president for his party's nominee. The president's speech spoke to independent voters and Republicans who are uneasy with Trump. Obama was poised, confident, warm and presidential in his delivery. His speech was a rich tapestry of words and ideals meant to unite the delegates behind their party's candidate.
All in all, Wednesday was a fabulous day for Democrats, and it may well be an important pivot point for their convention. President Obama now has handed the baton to Hillary Clinton, who will give her acceptance speech Thursday evening. And it very well may will the most important speech of her political career.