The Liberal Democrat leader told the party faithful they were the generation who were the envy of their predecessors; they had the opportunity to govern and put their liberal principles into practice, ending the "cycle of red, blue, blue, red" politics.
But he said there was an even bigger opportunity ahead - to be in a second coalition and draw a "step closer to breaking the two-party mould for good".
With some in his party fearful LibDem values have been diluted by being in partnership with the Tories, Mr Clegg received his loudest round of applause when he declared his party had retained its distinct individual character.
He said: "The Liberal Democrats are not just some subset of the Labour or Tory parties; we're no one's little brother. We have our own values, our own liberal beliefs.
"We're not trying to get back into government to fold into one of the other parties; we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle. We're not here to prop up the two-party system; we're here to bring it down."
In what was billed as his most personal keynote conference speech to date, he referred to his sons' upbringing, his wife Miriam and his attempt to lead as normal a family life as possible amid non-stop pressure, admitting: "I know I won't be in politics forever."
Emphasising how the economy was "growing stronger by the day", he insisted stable coalition politics was now accepted as the norm and the LibDems in government had passed the test of being able to govern well.
He declared: "This recovery wouldn't be happening without us. We have made sure the deficit is being cut at the right pace. We were the ones who said you don't just get growth by cutting red tape; government also needs to invest in things - infrastructure, apprenticeships, regional growth."
The Deputy Prime Minister ran off a list of achievements the LibDems had produced in government, from helping children from poor families in England and creating one million apprenticeships to taking three million people out of paying income tax, to gay marriage.
He also listed a range of policies he had stopped the Tories from implementing, from bringing in inheritance tax cuts for millionaires and firms being able to fire workers at will to regional pay for public sector workers to the so-called snoopers' charter.
Mr Clegg insisted the worst thing now would be to hand back the keys of No 10 in 2015 to either Labour or the Tories so they could govern on their own.
He said: "In 2015, the clapped-out politics of red, blue, blue, red threatens everything we have achieved. But, back in government, and next time that will mean back in coalition government, the Liberal Democrats can keep the country on the right path.
"I have spent my entire life watching the other two mess it up. We cannot stand idly by and let them do it all over again. We are the only party that can finish the job of economic recovery but finish it fairly. The only party able to build a stronger economy and a fairer society too. Our place is in government again."
On independence, he said the LibDems were a federal party in favour of giving Scotland fiscal autonomy and so a rejection of independence would not be the end of constitutional change.
"A Scottish decision to remain within the UK family can and must give way to a new settlement for this nation," he insisted, noting how other parties were coming round to the vision of Scotland "in charge of its own fate but of a family of nations too".
Pointing to the possibility of a new constitutional convention, he added: "That is why, once the issue of Scotland's continued participation in the United Kingdom is hopefully settled next year, I want to see a new cross-party approach to the next advance in Scottish devolution."