"On every issue, the choice you face won't be just between two candidates or two parties," Obama said during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Missing from the festivities was the traditional balloon drop because Obama spoke at the Time Warner Cable Arena after the venue was moved from the Bank of America Stadium because of predicted thunderstorms.
Obama, his wife and daughters were joined by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as members of their extended families, waving to the crowd as red, white and blue confetti fell from the ceiling and star bursts popped and flags waved on the stage screens.
"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 told the delegates.
The problems facing America can be solved, but it won't be easy, Obama said.
"You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth," Obama said. "And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. 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."
While the path he offers may be harder, it will lead to a better place, Obama pledged.
Obama, in a nod to the smaller-government crowd, said his party "should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
"Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known," Obama said, along with the promise "that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, D.C."
Republicans meeting in Tampa, Fla., last week "talked about everything they think is wrong with America but they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right."
"Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another," Obama said to laughter. "Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning."
He also asked that voters to rally around a set of goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation.
"That's what we can do in the next four years, and that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States."
Obama outlined his goals on for manufacturing, energy, education, national security and deficit reduction.
He called for the creation of 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 (the end of his second term if re-elected) and double exports by the end of 2014.
Obama said he wants to cut net oil imports in half by 2020 and said supports 600,000 natural gas jobs at the end of the decade.
Obama also proposed cutting the hikes in college tuition in half during the next 10 years and to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in that same period. He also proposed using the community college network to train 2 million workers for jobs.
"That's our future," he said.
Concerning national security, Obama said he wants to invest in the economy with the money that would no longer being spent on war.
He also said he would reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, using the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles report as a guide.
"It's time to do some nation-building right here at home," Obama said.
Turning to the global stage, Obama said voter "can choose leadership that is tested and proven.
He reminded his audience that four years ago, he pledged to end the war in Iraq and focus on terrorists.
"We did," he said. "We have. Al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead."
His administration has strengthened old alliances and forged new ones, Obama said, and worked to eradicate nuclear weapons and advance the rights and dignity of all people.
"But challenges remain and terrorist plots must be disrupted," Obama said.
"Our commitment to Israel must not waver," he said, "and neither must our pursuit of peace."
Americans believed they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that no person or government can take away, Obama said.
"We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative," Obama said. "We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.
But Democrats also believe in "something called citizenship," the idea that this country works "when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations."
"If you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November," Obama said. "America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now."
"Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place," Obama said in closing. "Yes our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don't turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up."
"We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth."