U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday night, bringing the Democratic Party convention to a close. Obama told the audience that the choice facing them is a choice between two visions for America – and asked voters for their support in dealing with the challenges facing the nation.
It all seemed to be winding down on Thursday night, the final day of the Democratic National Convention, as Obama formally accepted his party's nomination.
The weather made Democrats change venues from the huge Bank of America stadium, to the smaller Time Warner Cable Arena. There were no ancient Greek-style decorations that became fodder for Republican jokes on Obama's egomania.
Though the audience cheered and chanted "USA!" "Four more years!" and "Fired up," Obama never seemed to connect with the crowd the way former President Bill Clinton did the previous night. But, earnestly, and without much fanfare, he did state a case as to why he would be the better choice to lead the nation in the next four years.
He started with proclamation of love to his wife and pride of his daughters, Malia and Sasha, mentioning that they still had to go to school the next day. Vice President Joe Biden was presented as "the very best vice president I could have ever hoped for.”
Countering his rivals’ claims that he sold Americans an empty hope, Obama insisted his hope wasn't about "blind optimism or wishful thinking." His hope, Obama said, "has been tested by the cost of war, by one of the worst economic crises in history and by a political gridlock that's left us wondering whether it's still even possible to tackle the challenges of our time."
Despite the seriousness of his speech, Obama retained some of his sense of humor, poking fun at campaign redundancy: "If you're sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me, so am I."
Obama tried to deflect the label Republicans tried to pin on him – calling him a lightweight and a whiner (in Republican terms, akin to Jimmy Carter) – by trying to present them as pessimists.
"Our friends down in Tampa at the Republican Convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America. But they didn't have much to say about how they'd make it right."
Trying to justify the slow economic recovery, Obama tried the "telling the truth" approach: "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… But know this, America: Our problems can be solved."
He was also careful to rebut the Republican argument that all Democrats offer is a big government, stressing several times that government can't solve all problems, and emphasizing the role of teachers, parents, churches, communities and more.
His leadership, Obama said, was "tested and proven", citing the end of the war in Iraq and killing Osama bin Laden, intervening in the Libyan crisis and "advancing the rights and dignity of all human beings - men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews".
In his speech, Obama ignored Wednesday’s debacle of omitting and then reinstating recognition of Jerusalem as a capital of Israel in the Democratic Party platform, but he did proclaim that the U.S. "commitment to Israel's security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace."
Obama said that the Iranian government "must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions" - and also referred to the Arab Spring, saying that "the historic change sweeping across the Arab world must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate here today."
Then came the ferocious attack against Mitt Romney. "My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy," he said, to much laughter and applause of the delegates. "But from all that we've seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. After all, you don't call Russia our number one enemy unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally," Obama said, referring to Romney's awkward foreign trip where he doubted London's preparedness to host the Olympics.
"My opponent said that it was tragic to end the war in Iraq. And he won't tell us how he'll end the war in Afghanistan. Well, I have, and I will."
The next big issue was tax cuts: "I refuse to ask middle-class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut," Obama said. "I refuse to ask students to pay more for college or kick children out of Head Start programs to eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor and elderly or disabled all so those with the most can pay less. And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher," hinting the plan proposed by the Republican nominee for Vice President Paul Ryan.
The Democratic Party had to face their rivals' criticism to reinstate one sole mention of God at their party platform - but Obama did mention the "Creator" in his speech, saying that "as Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away."
And there was a clear jab at the Tea Party's mindset: "We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think the government is the source of all of our problems."
If in the 2008 race Obama was a blank screen on which Americans projected their hopes - this time he played the role of a humble President, having a clear vision but being aware of his limits.
"While I'm proud of what we've achieved together, I'm far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, "I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go. But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I'm naive about the magnitude of our challenges. I'm hopeful because of you," he said, echoing his 2008 message.
"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."
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