Speaking to a cheering, overflow crowd at the University of Maryland, President Obama said health care reform is “the defining struggle of this generation” and appealed to the youth to join in the struggle push it through Congress.

“We need the voices of young people to transform this nation,” the President said. “I need your voice.”

And to judge by the reaction of the vast throng of students, African American, Latino and white he is getting it. Obama offered a litany of cases of people who thought they had full health insurance protection yet were cancelled or denied coverage because of so-called “preexisting conditions” when they fell ill. The Comcast Center rocked with angry boos so loud that Obama paused and asked what was wrong. “We’re O.K. We’re doing O.K,” the President said. The boos turned to laughter and cheers.

But the crowd erupted in boos again when Obama mentioned the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill unveiled by Sen. Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, Sept l5. which lacks the government-financed “public option.”

Obama laid out his plan that includes the public option and cracks down on abuses like arbitrary denial of coverage. “When I sign this bill, it will be against the law for the insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick,” he said as the crowd cheered again.

Outside, Bob Ehrlich, the disgraced ex-governor of Maryland, and GOP National Chair, Michael Steele attempted to whip up a sad little band of Republican tea-baggers waving their racist anti-Obama placards.

There were other signs that supporters of reform are gaining the upper hand over the insurance company hecklers. The religious group, Faith in Public Life (FPL) announced that in a single day, last week, 20,000 people of faith made calls to their Senators and Representatives to “make the moral case for affordable health care for all.” That same day, FPL staged a rally on Capitol Hill and made visits to 100 lawmakers in targeted swing states to urge them to support Obama’s plan. President Obama spoke to 300,000 people of faith and answered their questions in a web-cast on health care reform sponsored by FPL Aug. 13. It is part of FPL’s “40 Days for Health Reform” aimed at mobilizing millions of religious people who support reform, not ceding ground to the religious right.