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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Julianna Johnson, 18, emailed her professor Wednesday asking if she could turn in her assignment by email.

Instead of going to her morning American History class, the UF sociology freshman wanted to see President Barack Obama speak in her hometown of Orlando on Friday. Her professor said yes a few hours later.

“I guess he thought that was a pretty good reason to miss class,” Johnson said.

Johnson was one of thousands who attended an early voting rally at the University of Central Florida, where Obama urged young voters to cast their ballots for the upcoming elections before Election Day on Nov. 8.

Jenna Nation, 26, sells shirts for Hillary Clinton’s campaign on North Orion Boulevard in Orlando on Friday. By noon, hundreds of people were waiting in line to enter the University of Central Florida’s CFE Arena to see President Barack Obama rally for Clinton.

He urged them to support Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in his race for Florida Senate against Republican incumbent Marco Rubio as well as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I’m not tired,” he told the crowd. “I’m feeling good. I’m ready to work, and I need you to join me. Florida, I need you to join me. Young people, I need you to join me. And you don’t need to wait till November 8.”

Before the doors opened, Orlando resident Janeka Lloyd waited with her son, Jevon Cherry, in a line of more than 10,000 people that stretched around a corner and down the sidewalk.

The 34-year-old, who remembers seeing Obama before he took office, said she wanted to see him before his term ends.

“Plus,” she said, patting Jevon, 6, on the head, “this is history for this little guy.”

Jevon said he liked the fact that Obama was supporting Clinton.

“I like Hillary,” he said.

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UF medical student Faiz Jiwani, who works as a paid canvasser for the Clinton campaign, arrived before the doors opened to help out at the event.

The 26-year-old said he wanted to get involved not only for his future, but for the future of his patients as well. Clinton, he said, cares about people.

“I have a moral obligation to support that,” he said, adding that he did not want to watch the elections from the sidelines.

In his speech, Obama took time to address accomplishments made during his terms, throw support behind Clinton and call Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump a slacker.

“There is only one candidate in this race who I believe can continue the progress we’ve made, and I know that because she’s devoted her life to making America better,” he said.

For Johnson, who attended the rally with friends, seeing Obama speak was worth the four-hour wait.

“The highlight of it all was the simple fact that it was Obama, and I got to see him before he left office,” Johnson said. “Obama is the first black president, and that means a lot to me.”

When Obama mentioned Rubio’s support for Trump, the crowd reacted with boos. As if knowing this would happen, he responded.

“Don’t boo,” he said. “Vote.”

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