CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- His re-election in doubt, President Barack Obama conceded only halting progress Thursday toward fixing the nation's stubborn economic woes, but vowed in a Democratic National Convention finale, "Our problems can be solved, our challenges can be met."
"Yes, our path is harder -- but it leads to a better place," he declared in a prime-time speech to convention delegates and the nation that blended resolve about the challenges ahead with stinging criticism of Republican rival Mitt Romney's proposals to repair the economy.
He acknowledged "my own failings" as he asked for a second term.
"Four more years," delegates chanted over and over as the 51-year-old Obama stepped to the podium, noticeably grayer than four years ago when he was a history-making candidate for the White House.
The president's speech was the final act of a pair of highly scripted national political conventions in as many weeks, and the opening salvo of a two-month drive toward Election Day that pits Obama against Republican rival Romney. The contest is ever tighter for the White House in a dreary season of economic struggle for millions.
Biden: Turned the corner
Obama didn't go that far in his own remarks, but he said firmly, "We are not going back, we are moving forward, America."
At one point, after saying "I have never been more hopeful about America," the president referred to a young woman he met at a science fair "who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter -- she gives me hope."
That was an apparent reference to Samantha Garvey, then a 17-year-old Brentwood High School senior who earlier this year became a national Intel science competition semifinalist while living with her family at a Bay Shore homeless shelter.
With unemployment at 8.3 percent, the president said the task of recovering from the economic disaster of 2008 is exceeded in American history only by the challenge Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced when he took office in 1933.
"It will require common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold persistent experimentation" that FDR employed, Obama said.
In an appeal to independent voters who might be considering a vote for Romney, he added that those who carry on Roosevelt's legacy "should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
In the run-up to Obama's speech, delegates erupted in cheers when former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, grievously wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt, walked onstage to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. The hall grew louder when she blew kisses to the crowd.
And louder still when huge video screens inside the hall showed the face of Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind killed in a daring raid on his Pakistani hideout by U.S. special operations forces on a mission approved by the current commander in chief.
To the cheers of delegates, Obama retraced his steps to halt the economic slide, including the auto bailout that Romney opposed. "After a decade of decline, this country created over a half-million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years," he said.
Turning to national security, he said he had promised to end the war in Iraq, and had done so.
"We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014 our longest war will be over," he said. "A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead."
He lampooned Romney's own economic proposals. "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," he said.