President Barack Obama waves to supporters as he arrives at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Updated: October 9, 2012 2:49PM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — His re-election in doubt, President Barack Obama acknowledged slow progress toward solving the nation’s economic woes Thursday night but declared in a Democratic National Convention speech, “Our problems can be solved, our challenges can be met.”
“The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place,” he said in excerpts of his prime-time speech released in advance.
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.
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.
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.”
The convention’s final night also included a nomination acceptance speech from Vice President Joe Biden, whose appeal to blue collar voters rivals or even exceeds Obama’s own.
The president was to be introduced by first lady Michelle Obama, who also spoke on the convention’s opening night as the Democrats sought to capitalize on her popularity.
Delegates who packed into their convention hall were serenaded by singer James Taylor and rocked by R&B blues artist Mary J. Blige as they awaited Obama’s speech.
As part of the excerpts released in advance, Obama’s campaign said he would set a goal of creating one million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016 and push for more aggressive steps to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
He also 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.”
The campaign focus was shifting quickly — to politically sensitive monthly unemployment figures due out Friday morning and the first presidential debate on Oct. 3 in Denver. Wall Street hit a four-year high a few hours before Obama’s speech after the European Central Bank laid out a concrete plan to support the region’s struggling countries.
Convention planners shoehorned a few more seats into the Time Warner Cable Arena for Obama’s remarks, pushing capacity to about 15,000. Even so, the decision to scrap plans to hold the night’s session in a 74-000-seat football stadium meant a far smaller crowd than the president’s campaign hoped would hear him speak and present an enthusiastic show of support on television.