The president said he "has never been more hopeful about America."
Harry E. Walker/MCTPresident Barack Obama waves to the delegates at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Times Warner Cable Arena.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the face of a stubborn economic recovery and relentless Republican attacks, President Obama made his bid for re-election Thursday night by asking America to continue on the “harder path” toward prosperity and embrace a Democratic philosophy geared toward helping the middle class and the working poor.
“I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth,” Obama said as he electrified a crowd of more than 15,000 at the Time Warner Cable Arena. “And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
The president — greeted with thunderous applause and chants of “four more years!” — also said he “has never been more hopeful about America. 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.”
Obama’s appearance was the climax to a three-day convention marked by soaring speeches by Democratic Party stars — and sharp rebukes to what was said by Republicans at their convention last week in Tampa, Fla.
Democrats preached a message of middle-class empowerment, social equality, and women’s rights, along with a celebration of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy achievements. They sought to paint the Republican Party as one of craven self-interest, bent on enriching the wealthy at the expense of the country’s working and middle classes.
“On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties, Obama said. “It will be a choice between two different paths for America — a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”
A central theme of the president’s address was perseverance in bringing back an economy that Democrats say was teetering on a depression when he took office. Jobs numbers released today and a bullish day on Wall Street gave a slight lift to the president’s entreaty, but he warned that a recovery will not be easy, nor will it be immediate.
“It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one,” Obama said, resurrecting the specter of the Great Depression.
EXCERPTS FROM THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH
AN 8-YEAR TASK
• “The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”
• “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.”
• “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.”
A DIFFICULT PATH
• “I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country — goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.”
• “That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.”
In a nod to independent voters, he added: “And by the way — those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.”
Obama laid out a series of second-term goals, saying over the next 10 years he planned to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion, cut the growth of college tuition in half, create 1 million new manufacturing jobs and double exports.
“The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future,” Obama said.
Republicans argue Obama and the Democratic party is obsessed with big government and overregulation. “President Obama can give great speeches. He can blame people in the past. But he can’t tell people we’re better off than we were,” U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, told a crowd in Colorado today.
But well-received speeches by former President Bill Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama in the convention’s first two days sought to deflect the allegation that America had not improved over the last four years. And Obama took his own shots at the GOP.
“Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right,” he said. “They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last 30 years: Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Obama said he cut taxes “for those who need it — middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit.”
Earlier in the evening, Vice President Joe Biden said Obama’s “steady hand” set the course for economic resurgence. “And folks because of the decisions he’s made, and the incredible strength the American people, America has turned the corner,” he said.
Obama also pitched his foreign policy record, telling voters they can “choose leadership that has been tested and proven” and Romney would “take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.”
“Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did,” he said. “I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
With confetti filling the arena and Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own” playing as the crowd sang along, New Jersey delegates had immediate praise for Obama.
“That was awesome! Not a dry eye in the house,” said Jersey City Deputy Mayor Raj Mukherji. “After a week of being inspired by all of our rock stars the president just drove it home.”
Sudhanshu Prasad, an Edison Councilman, said the bar was set high and the president surpassed it. “I thought it was fabulous,” he said.
The evening’s emotional high point came when former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona walked unsteadily onto the stage of the packed arena. Giffords, who was shot in the head by a would-be assassin and is still recovering, recited the pledge of the allegiance. The crowd responded with shouts of “Gabby, Gabby.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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