President Obama, greeted by tumultuous cheers of Democratic Party stalwarts, promised to lead America to a "better place" tonight if voters agree to the follow the "harder" and "longer" path he has mapped to restore the country's economy and the sense of hope and opportunity.
"America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now," he told his party's convention. "Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together."
The president took the podium after being affectionately introduced by his wife Michelle Obama who starred on the first night of the Democrats' convention in Charlotte, N.C.
CLICK HERE for a transcript of President Barack Obama's full remarks to the Democratic National Convention.
Obama, 51, was careful to strike a delicate balance, infusing voters with hope while remaining realistic about the challenges ahead, and sensitive to those Americans still batted by a lengthy recession and slow recovery.
His tone was hopeful and forward looking, a reflection of the reality of his record: unemployment remains stubbornly above 8 percent and 67 percent of Americans think the country is "on the wrong track."
Obama's speech comes four years after he promised the nation an administration of hope and change, and he suggested that his promise has been battered but not beaten.
"That hope has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history, and by political gridlock," he said.
At another point he said, "I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed, and so have I."
The president looked forward to what his second administration will look like, laying out a series of goals for the manufacturing, energy, education, national security sectors, and for the deficit.
He promised to create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years and 600,000 new jobs in the natural gas sector by the end of the decade.
He also promised to cut in half the growth of college tuition costs over the next 10 years and invest in the economy money no longer being spent to execute the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"On every issue, the choice you face won't be just between two candidates or two parties," he said. "It will be a choice between two different paths for America.
Obama positioned himself as the experienced candidate, tested by war and proven in foreign policy.
"In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven," he said. " Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have... Al-Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead," he said to cheers.
Obama said Americans had a choice on the economy. "We can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America," he said.
Vice President Biden spoke before the president, praising Obama's "judgment and vision" and attacking Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Biden stuck with a theme of the convention that Obama rescued the auto industry and was on path to fix the economy.
Taking a swipe at Romney for saying Obama should have let the car companies go bankrupt, Biden said, "I just don't think he understood what saving the automobile industry meant to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. Balance sheets."
He also retold the story of how the president considered the risks and gave the "Go" order to get al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, one of the clear triumphs of the Obama administration.
The president's enthusiasm tonight may have been bolstered by a Wall Street rally. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed to four-year highs today after the European Central Bank announced a plan that may provide some long-term assistance to struggling European markets.
Despite that ray of political sunshine, Obama's message was starkly different and less lofty in scope compared to the heady promises he made in 2008. Then, before he was left to contend with the realities of the White House, Obama promised to usher in a new era of bipartisanship, get unemployment below 8 percent, open negotiations with Iran, and bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians.
Obama advisers on Thursday tempered expectations, saying a single acceptance speech could not necessarily widen the president's lead in a tightly contested election.
"Listen, this is a very tight race," David Plouffe, architect of Obama's 2008 campaign and a White House adviser told "Good Morning America" Thursday.
"We've always believed that there's very little elasticity in this election. I don't think you should expect a big bounce. I think this is a race where we've got a small but important lead into battleground states," he said.
President Obama Talks About a "Better Place"
"It's going to be very, very close all the way out, but I think the Republicans had an opportunity last week to lay out for the American people what they would do for the middle class. Our sense is that they missed the mark, so we think we're making a lot of progress this week. But again, you're not going to see big bounces in this election. I think for the next 61 days it's going to remain tight as a tick," he said.
Obama was slated to speak at the Bank of America Stadium, which seats nearly 75,000 people. Due to storms over Charlotte, the campaign moved his speech to the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena, where the rest of this week's convention has taken place, but seats only 20,000.
Before Biden and Obama took the stage, former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was injured in a shooting in January 2011, recited the pledge of allegiance. The crowd already on its feet for the pledge, erupted in applause when she finished and many delegates had tears in their eyes.
A number of party loyalists and activists, from actress Scarlett Johansson to Caroline Kennedy, took addressing the arena. Former Mich. Governor Jennifer Granholm, however, fired up the crowd by saying that Obama's bailout saved the U.S. auto industry along with 1 million American jobs.
She counted off in a rising voice how many jobs were saved in many of the battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan.
In contrast, she reminded the crowd that Mitt Romney said the auto companies should have been allowed to go bankrupt, and she portrayed him as an out of touch millionaire.
"He loves his cars so much they even have their own elevator," she said referring to building plans at a Romney home that include an elevator for his car collection.
"In Romney's world, the cars get the elevator and the workers get the shaft," she roared.