Presidents of the United States can't be all things to all people.
But that's what's expected of them, anyway.
Tonight, in the climax of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., President Barack Obama gets what is perhaps his best unfiltered opportunity to tell the American people why they should renew his contract.
After nearly four years in office, there probably isn't much we don't know about the nation's first African American head of state. If polls are to be believed, most of us have already made up our minds -- pro or con.
There are liberals who greeted Obama's election in 2008 with such rapturous optimism that they were bound to be disappointed when the realities of governance prevented their president from achieving everything they thought he would.
Then there are conservatives who have such a visceral dislike for Obama that they began counting down the days to this year's election almost as soon as he took office in 2009. If Barack Obama was for something, they were against it, plain and simple.
Perhaps nothing the president can say tonight will mollify the far left or persuade the far right. But for the rest of us, there is much we want to hear -- much we need to hear beyond the obligatory warnings of what awful things will happen if his opponent should happen to win in November.
While we shouldn't expect a State of the Union-type laundry list of objectives, Obama should certainly be as specific as he can when laying out his plans for a second term.
That is something Republican nominee Mitt Romney chose not to do in his widely yawned-at acceptance speech last week. Where Romney said he would cut taxes and balance the federal budget, he gave no details about what programs he might cut. He said he would stand up to Russia and Iran, but didn't say what that might entail. He said he would get rid of Obamacare, but didn't give any clues about what might replace it.
We hope Obama seizes the day -- or actually, the night.
Yes, we expect that we will be hearing about how his administration averted financial calamity, how he helped save the U.S. auto industry, how women benefit from his signing the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, about the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and his support for gay marriage, about his clemency for children of undocumented immigrants and how we got Osama bin Laden.
But tonight's speech will only be successful if Mr. Obama can show us a vision for the future that, while it can't be all things to all people, persuades enough of us that better times are ahead.