Lieberman, 60, the first Jew on a major party ticket when he ran as Al Gore's vice president in 2000, joined a growing list of Democrats hoping to spoil Republican President George Bush's expected re-election bid. "I intend to win," Lieberman told an audience of supporters at Stamford High School, his alma mater.
Lieberman will face stiff opposition in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri have all announced they will run. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., is also considering a run, as is Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., and activist Al Sharpton.
Gore, vice president during the Clinton administration, has said he will not run, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota recently took his name out of consideration.
Lieberman, president of the class of 1960 at Stamford High, recalled that it was there that he "first understood the power of the promise of America, that no matter who you are or where you start, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can go as far in this country as your God-given talents will take you. "When I was growing up and going to school right here, we called that promise the American dream. It defined our freedom, our opportunity and our strength. It brought us together as a people around our shared belief in an ever-brighter future for our country.
"Today, unfortunately, that American dream is in jeopardy, threatened by hateful terrorists and tyrants from abroad, and a weak economy that makes it harder for people to live a better life here at home." For too many Americans the American dream "is drifting out of reach," he said.
"That's unacceptable, but it doesn't have to remain that way. I am confident that we as a nation have what it takes to meet these challenges and renew the American dream. We can and must make it as real for those of you who are students here today as it was for me and my generation."
He also said that as a nation, "We must never shrink from using American power to defend our security and our ideals against evil in a time of war, and we must never forget to use the power of our ideals as a force for good and a quest for peace."
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has said Lieberman would have a "tremendous advantage" within the field of 2004 candidates because he's "well known nationally and he compares very well against Bush."
Lieberman spent the weekend with his family before heading to Stamford for his announcement. After the announcement, Lieberman planned address a history class, visit the Stamford Diner, and then go to his mother's house in downtown Stamford to do media interviews.
Lieberman said last week he chose Stamford High School for the announcement because it was where "so many of my dreams were formed." "I think Stamford is truly a melting pot," Joe Richichi, who was four years behind Lieberman in school, told the Stamford Advocate. "It's truly representative of a cross-section of people -- religious, ethnic, cultural. I think Joe grew his strength from his understanding and could relate to all those people."
Among those attending the announcement was Joseph Ehrenkranz, 76, rabbi emeritus of Agudath Sholom in Stamford and executive director for the Center of Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. "I didn't think I'd see this day come," Ehrenkranz said about the possibility of seeing a Jew run for president. He noted that until recently the possibility of electing a Jewish president seemed remote. "There are still small pockets of anti-Semitism," he said, "but I don't think that's going to make a difference. The country doesn't respect bigotry."
David Waren, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, agreed. He said anti-Semitism by-and-large would not hinder Lieberman's chances. "The remarkable thing about the 2000 election was that the issue was unremarkable," Waren told the Advocate. "Senator Lieberman's religion was not an issue (in the 2000 race), and this reflects a certain maturity in the American polity."
Lieberman has been referred to as the moral conscience of the Senate, confronting television, movie and video-game producers for promoting violence. He was also the first Democrat to publicly chastise Clinton for his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
To appease liberal Democrats in 2000, Lieberman adjusted his positions on school vouchers, free trade and tort reform. Over the past two years, however, Lieberman has returned to the center, supporting the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and giving Bush wide discretion to use military force in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As an orthodox Jew, Lieberman observes the Sabbath, which prevents him from working or riding in vehicles from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
Lieberman graduated from Yale in 1964 and earned a law degree from Yale in 1967. He is married to Hadassah (Freilich) Lieberman. They have one child, Hana, 12. He has two children from a previous marriage, Matthew, 32, and Rebecca, 31. Hadassah has a son, Ethan, 24, from her first marriage.