CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Casting this year’s election as the clearest and most important choice in a generation, President Obama called on Americans to persevere through trying times toward a future where hard choices and shared sacrifice will lead to “a better place.”
“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,” Obama planned to say, according to advance excerpts of his speech.
“On every issue, 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. A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future,” Obama said.
The president’s speech accepting the Democratic nomination, which was delivered to 20,000 delegates and guests at Time Warner Cable Arena, underscored a pointed theme delivered repeatedly during the three-day Democratic National Convention — that the path to recovery requires pain and a helping hand, compared with what Democrats assert is a “you’re-on-your-own” Republican philosophy.
“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. 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 planned to say.
“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. “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 mixed his trademark rhetorical flourishes with the numerical goals of a second-term agenda.
The president said he would work to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years, add 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016, and double manufacturing exports by the end of 2014.
In energy, the country would cut net oil imports in half by 2020 and add hundreds of thousands of natural-gas jobs, Obama said.
In education, he set a goal of cutting the growth of college tuition by 50 percent over the next decade, recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers by 2013, and using community colleges to train 2 million students for the workforce.
“Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place,” Obama said, describing his goals as “a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.”
In a statement several hours before Obama spoke, his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, said: “This is a time not for him not to start restating new promises, but to report on the promises he made. I think he wants a promises reset. We want a report on the promises he made.”
Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a gunshot to the head last year, walked haltingly to the stage in an emotional appearance to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential nominee, brought the crowd to its feet several times as he launched a spirited defense of Obama’s foreign policy, saying he had inherited two wars, a military stretched thin, and a world that questioned America’s moral authority.
“He promised to end the war in Iraq — and he has — and our heroes have come home. He promised to end the war in Afghanistan responsibly — and he is,” Kerry said. “It took President Obama, against the advice of many, to give that order to finally rid this earth of Osama bin Laden.”
Then, Kerry said, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he is better off now than he was four years ago.”
Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also criticized Romney for his lack of foreign policy experience, mocked his recent trip abroad as a “blooper real,” and referred to the Republican ticket as “the most inexperienced foreign policy twosome to run for president and vice president in decades.”
“It isn’t fair to say Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position,” said Kerry, who is playing Romney in debate preparations with Obama. “Mr. Romney — here’s a little advice: Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!”
Kerry’s barbs were relentless. “Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska,” Kerry said. “Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching ‘Rocky IV.’ ”
Vice President Joe Biden was nominated Thursday, and planned to deliver a speech urging Americans to give him and Obama another four-year term to continue implementing their economic policies.
“We’re on a mission to move this nation forward — from doubt and downturn, to promise and prosperity,” Biden planned to say, according to advance excerpts of his speech. “A mission we will continue and a mission we will complete.”
Obama also received an endorsement from Caroline Kennedy, an early supporter of his 2008 campaign who defended his record on women’s issues and criticized efforts to ban and restrict access to reproductive services and programs.
“There is only one candidate in this race who is on our side: Barack Obama,” Kennedy said. “As a Catholic woman, I take reproductive health seriously, and today, it is under attack.”
She also likened Obama’s vision to that of her father, President John F. Kennedy.
“Barack Obama is the kind of leader my father wrote about in ‘Profiles in Courage.’ He doesn’t just do what’s easy. He does what’s hard. He does what’s right,” she said.
Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida who has endorsed Obama, told the convention that the GOP had become too extreme for him.
“I didn’t leave the Republican Party; it left me,” said Crist, recalling Ronald Reagan’s words about why he had left the Democratic Party. “Then again, my friend Jeb Bush” — a Republican and another former governor of Florida — “recently noted, Reagan himself would have been too moderate, too reasonable for today’s GOP.”
US Representative Barney Frank, who helped craft an overhaul of financial regulations after the economic collapse in 2008, warned that Romney was elected Massachusetts governor on a promise of job creation, similar to his pledge as a presidential candidate. That promise, Frank said, was never realized.
“I now hear about the great ability of this wizard of private-sector engineering, and I realized here is the problem: Our governor was Mitt Romney; what we should have had was Myth Romney,” said Frank.
In the hours leading up to Obama’s address, the arena was packed, with delegates dancing and swaying to performances from artists such as James Taylor and the Foo Fighters. They chanted “Fired up!” and “Ready to go!” They walked around the concourse, snapping pictures with complete strangers because they were wearing similarly outlandish Obama outfits.
A man had Obama stickers plastered on his shirt and shorts. A woman had a homemade ballot box attached to her head.
“Tonight, people are going to hear from President Obama and be reassured that we will continue to move forward,” said Earline Parmon, a state representative from Winston-Salem. “He turned the auto industry around. He is creating more jobs. Are you better off than you were four years ago? We are better off than we were when you really look at it.”
In the afternoon, Obama held a conference call with supporters who had hoped to listen to his speech in person at nearby Bank of America Stadium, which holds more than 70,000 spectators. The threat of bad weather prompted a relocation, organizers said, but Republicans speculated that the president’s campaign staff did not want to risk the sight of empty seats at the stadium.
“The problem was a safety issue. I could not ask you — our volunteers, our law enforcement, first responders — to subject themselves to the risk of severe thunderstorms,” the president said.
Obama encouraged them to continue working for him.
“This is still going to be a really close election. And the other side is preparing to unleash just a barrage of negative ads. They’re getting massive checks from wealthy donors,” Obama said. “The good thing is I’ve got you.”
After Thursday’s call to arms, Obama planned to embark almost immediately on a swing-state blitz. He and his wife, Michelle, as well as Biden and his wife, Jill, were scheduled to fly to Portsmouth, N.H., for a campaign rally Friday at historic Strawbery Banke.
Later in the afternoon, the four were to fly to Iowa for an evening speech by the president at the University of Iowa.