President Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination for re-election on Thursday, telling the Democratic National Convention and Americans that only the voters in November have the power to secure the change he started.
In a tough speech that sounded now-familiar themes of his campaign, the president sought to show his supporters that their votes for him four years ago brought achievements that would be wiped out if Republican challenger Mitt Romney wins the election two months away.
"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," Obama said, depicting a scenario in which special interests and conservative politicians run Washington and the country. "... Only you can make sure that doesn't happen. Only you have the power to move us forward."
Acknowledging the nation's hope has been tested since he first addressed the party conclave in 2004 as the keynote speaker, Obama urged Americans to look beyond the "trivial" nature of election campaigns to fully grasp the magnitude of the election.
"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," he said. "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."
It is more than a choice between two candidates or parties, he said, calling it "a choice between two different paths for America, a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
The Romney campaign responded by saying Obama continued to offer polices that haven't worked under his presidency, which has seen high unemployment, a sluggish economic recovery and rising federal deficits and debt.
"Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record -- they know they're not better off and that it's time to change direction," the Romney campaign statement said.
CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger called Obama's speech "defiant at every single level," particularly its criticism of Romney's lack of experience on foreign policy, while CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen said Obama was "presidential" but offered little new in the way of specific promises.
Republican strategist Ari Fleischer, also a CNN contributor, said the speech contained the same themes and promises of the past four years."
Obama called for the nation to rally around "a real, achievable plan" to deal with the economic challenges that are the most problematic issues facing his campaign.
Specific goals included creating 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016, halving net oil imports by 2020, cutting the growth of college tuition in half over the next 10 years, training 2 million workers for jobs and supporting natural gas development that can employ 600,000 people by the end of the decade.
Three of the goals are new -- the increase in manufacturing jobs, the cut in college tuition increases and the reduction in oil imports -- while the others have been previously discussed by the president or his administration.
"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy. I never have," Obama said, adding "it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades."
In an obvious message to independents and moderate voters of both parties, Obama sought to distance himself from the accusation by Romney that he is a big-government liberal.
"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 said.
Following the theme of the forceful endorsement he received Wednesday night from former President Bill Clinton, Obama also offered an optimistic outlook for the future to contrast with Republican warnings of a nation in peril.
"We don't think that government can solve all our problems," he 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."
He claimed founding principles as the dominion of Democrats as well as Republicans, declaring that "we, the people, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what's in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense."
Obama also delivered some biting criticism of Romney and his running mate, conservative Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, saying their economic plan of tax cuts and shrinking government will undermine the economy rather than promote growth.
He mocked the GOP mantra on tax cuts that he said had helped bring the recession he faced when he took office, describing the Republican remedy for growth as "take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning."
Obama also made fun of Romney for calling Russia the nation's biggest foreign threat and other recent gaffes on the former Massachusetts governor's trip to England, Israel and Poland.
"In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven," the president said, citing the killing of Osama bin Laden and ending of the war in Iraq as accomplishments.
Earlier on the final night of the three-day Democratic convention, other speakers delivered fiery criticism of Romney and Ryan while praising Obama for his leadership in the face of multiple crises upon taking office.
Veteran Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the unsuccessful Democratic presidential nominee in 2004, drew howls of delight when he answered Republican claims that the nation is worse off under Obama by noting the president's most visible foreign policy achievement.