President Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination with a resolute speech at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday in which he described a choice "between two fundamentally different visions for the future" and outlined his plans to finish rebuilding the economy.
"When all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation," Obama told the Democratic Party faithful in Charlotte's Time Warner Arena and millions of viewers across the nation. "Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace - decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children's lives for decades to come.
"On every issue," Obama continued, "the choice you face won't be just between two candidates or two parties. It will be a choice between two different paths for America."
Obama, who is running neck and neck in the polls with Mitt Romney, mentioned his opponent's name just once. Instead, he cast Romney's views as the opposite of what the Democratic ticket stands for: a combination of personal responsibility, collective sacrifice and government investment.
The president derided the Republicans as seeking tax cuts as a balm for all ills - even, Obama joked, the common cold.
“This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can't do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can't afford health insurance, hope that you don't get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that's the price of progress."
Obama sought to win over disillusioned voters who backed his "hope and change" candidacy four years ago.
"Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future," he said.
Obama was introduced by his wife, Michelle. After embracing the first lady, he faced the roaring crowd of delegates and clapped. His supporters answered with chants: "Four more years!"
His message was a mirror-image argument to Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week that invited unhappy Obama supporters to vote for the GOP ticket.
"If you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible, well, change will not happen," the president said.
He admitted that he'd made mistakes, but was learning from them, and remained optimistic. "Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I'm naïve about the magnitude of our challenges. I'm hopeful because of you."
The president asked for patience at a time of chronically high unemployment - 8.3 percent, at last count. He vowed to impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans and channel government efforts into building the country's industrial sector. He promised to create one million additional manufacturing jobs. He said he would take the money saved from scaling down military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to "put more people back to work" through infrastructure investments. He promised to cut the deficit by $4 trillion.
Obama outlined an ambitious effort to enhance America's domestic energy production, and double its use of renewable energy sources - wind, solar, "clean coal," natural gas. He pledged to cut the country's contribution to global warming by reducing carbon pollution.
The president also sketched out an education agenda that would cut college loan costs, recruit 100,000 more science and math teachers and curtail the growth of college tuition.
"We don't want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don't want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don't think government can solve all our problems," Obama said. "But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems - any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles."
Moving to foreign policy, Obama reminded his audience of his first-term accomplishments: pulling troops out of Iraq, continuing a withdrawal from Afghanistan, ordering the killing of Osama bin Laden, supporting human-rights campaigns in Burma, Libya and South Sudan.
He also ridiculed Romney's public gaffes at the London Olympics and his opposition to ending the war in Iraq.
"My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly," Obama said.
When he finished, he walked off the stage with Michelle and their two daughters, as a Bruce Springsteen song, "We Take Care of Our Own" filled the arena.
Obama was preceded on the stage by Vice President Joe Biden, who offered his perspective on watching the president face a tanking economy in his first weeks in office.
"Day after day, night after night, I sat beside him, as he made one gutsy decision after another -- to stop the slide and reverse it," Biden said.
Biden walked though two of Obama's signature accomplishments: his decision to bail out the failing American auto industry and the order to kill bin Laden. He described the president as a deliberate, careful thinker who sought advice from an array of experts and stakeholders and did not waver once he'd made up his mind.
"Because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made -- and because of the determination of American workers -- and the unparalleled bravery of our special forces -- we can now proudly say what you’ve heard me say the past six months," Biden said. "Osama Bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."
Thursday’s undercard lineup of speakers also included Sen. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee. Kerry focused on Obama's foreign policy work, praising him for banning torture, ending the war in Iraq and withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, ordering the killing of Bin Laden, working with Israel to impose sanctions on Iran, signing a nuclear treaty with Russia and sending support to Libyan rebels who deposed Moammar Gadhafi. He accused Romney of changing his mind on foreign policy questions.
"Mr. Romney, here's a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself," Kerry said.
The program at times seemed more like a Hollywood gathering than a political one. Actresses Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington and Scarlett Johansson took the stage in support of Obama, and singers James Taylor and Mary J. Blige and the rock band Foo Fighters performed.
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from brain injuries suffered in a January 2011, recited the Pledge of Allegiance, prompting a sustained roar, and many tears, from the audience.
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, compared her father's election in 1960 to the choice facing Americans today, particularly women and children. She praised Obama's record on health care reform, education reform, and his position on women's reproductive rights.
"Barack Obama is the kind of leader my father wrote about in "Profiles in Courage" He doesn't just do what's easy," Kennedy said. "He does what's hard. He does what's right."