President Barack Obama says he needs "more than just a few years" to finish cleaning up the mess he inherited.
After the chants of "Four more years!" died down as he walked onto the main stage, Obama admitted economic recovery has been uncomfortably slow, but vowed in the prime time Democratic National Convention finale Thursday that "Our path is harder – but it leads to a better place."
With unemployment at 8.3 percent, Obama 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 the Great Depression in 1933.
"It will require common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation" that FDR employed, Obama said. "The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place," he added.
With his re-election in doubt, Obama went on to make the case that he not only deserves a second term -- the future prosperity of America depends on it.
"When all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation," Obama said. "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."
His speech was the final act of his national convention, and the opening salvo of a two-month drive toward Election Day in his race against Republican rival Mitt Romney. The contest is close for the White House in a dreary season of economic struggle for millions.
Watch part of the commander-in-chief's speech at the DNC:
Attempting to reach independent voters who may be leaning towards voting 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."
"As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away," Obama said.
"We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We're not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known."
However, he quickly walked those traditionally conservative statements by adding, "But we don't think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles."
In his nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Fla., Romney accused Obama of making grandiose promises that he couldn't keep, targeting masses of Obama voters who have expressed disappointment with his first term. Romney also said the "future will not be better than the past" if Obama is re-eelected, the exact opposite of what the president said Thursday.
"Now, our friends 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," Obama said, adding they only have the same "prescription" they have been giving out for 30 years, delivering a clever quip that drew laughter from the crowd:
"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!"
However, the tones of the two rivals' speeches were very similar, both focusing on the daunting problems that face America, each arguing only they can fix them.
Obama also focused the 2008 promises that he kept, directly rebutting Romney's argument that he didn't follow through on his campaign assurances.
"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. We've blunted the Taliban's momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead," he said. At this line, the crowd went nuts, delivering a rousing standing ovation along with chants of "USA! USA!"
The Commander-in-Chief vowed to maintain "the strongest military the world has ever known" and continue fighting terrorism should be reelected. He went on to say his support for Israel will not waiver.
Obama used the opportunity to slam Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, questioning their foreign policy credentials and saying they want to take America back to an "era of blustering."
"My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy... After all, you don't call Russia our number one enemy – and not al-Qaeda – unless you're still stuck in a Cold War time warp," the president added, drawing more laughter.
Obama also laid out a ambitious plan to create one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and push for more aggressive steps to reduce American dependence on foreign oil while also advancing green energy initiatives.
"And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax," the president said. "More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They're a threat to our children's future."
He called for curtailing the growth of college costs by half over the next 10 years. According to the Department of Education, the price of undergraduate tuition and room and board at public institutions rose by 42 percent in the decade that ended in 2010; the increase at private not-for-profit institutions was 31 percent.
Still, he said, "The truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over a decade."
"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. 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," Obama concluded.
Watch the entire speech here:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.