CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Trying to rekindle his connection with the American people after four years of recession and a slow recovery, President Barack Obama promised a better future if voters reaffirmed their commitment to an agenda he said still offered hope and change.
In a speech to a crowded hall on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Obama conceded that his administration wasn't offering a quick fix to problems "that have built up over decades" and would require years to correct.
"But know this, America: Our problems can be solved," Obama said. "Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place."
The speech marked a stark contrast from the situation Obama found himself in four years ago.
READ TRANSCRIPT: President's DNC acceptance speech
Then, he was a change agent running from the party out of power, the first major-party black presidential nominee, who drew such large crowds that he decided to hold his acceptance speech in a football stadium.
On Thursday, he spoke for about 40 minutes to a packed Time Warner Cable Arena, the night's festivities having been moved from nearby Bank of America Stadium because officials said the weather forecast was too unpredictable. And Obama was in some ways arguing that a steady course would produce its own kind of change, or at least preserve the change that his administration had made over the past four years.
Obama himself acknowledged the shift in his position during the address, noting that the presidency had in some ways changed him from the young state senator who set the convention on fire in 2004 as the keynote speaker and the presidential candidate promising a fresh start in 2008.
"But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America," he told cheering delegates. "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 also delivered a set of promises he said could be delivered if voters would give him a second turn. Obama pledged to create a million manufacturing jobs, boost exports, begin weaning America off foreign oil, rein in college costs and make deep reductions in the federal deficit.
But, much like GOP nominee Mitt Romney's promise at the Republican National Convention to create 12 million new jobs, Obama offered few details on how he would reach those objectives.
"He offered more promises, but he hasn't kept the promises he made four years ago," Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said in a statement issued before the speech had ended. "Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record -- they know they're not better off and that it's time to change direction."
Obama also used the speech to needle Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, over their differences on the issues. In a segment that seemed pointed at the senior citizens who could play a major role in deciding which candidate gets Florida's 29 electoral votes, Obama took aim at the GOP's plans for Medicare.
"And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher," he said. "No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity that they have earned."
Obama's speech capped off a night that featured a brief speech by former Florida Gov. Charlie, a Republican-turned-independent, and appearances from Hollywood stars like Eva Longoria and Scarlett Johansson. Democrats highlighted Obama's achievements -- including authorizing a bailout they say saved the American automobile industry and ordering the operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.
The message implicit in many of the night's speeches: Obama has earned one more chance.
"We're on a mission to move this nation forward -- from doubt and downturn, to promise and prosperity," said Vice President Joe Biden. "A mission I guarantee you we will complete."
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