"Miracles occur when our faith meets our vision, when believing is seeing," said Kucinich, who recalled years ago watching the flames from the stacks at an Ohio steel factory and imagining running for president.
Kucinich, who has been campaigning for months, made the announcement in his hometown of Cleveland, the first stop of a 12-state tour that will include Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Iowa.
"I'm running for president of the United States to enable the armies of peace," Kucinich told some 300 supporters in the chambers of the Cleveland city council.
The candidate has stressed several themes during his months on the campaign trail and in candidates' debates: his steadfast opposition to the U.S.-led war against Iraq and his call for American troops to return home; his desire to end the North American Free Trade Agreement that he argues costs U.S. jobs and his support for a single-payer, universal health care system.
The kickoff speech at Cleveland's City Hall serves as a reminder of Kucinich's political triumphs and bitter disappointments. Elected in 1977, the 31-year-old "boy mayor" guided a city that two years later became the first since the Depression to go into default.
Kucinich faced death threats, and was forced to wear a bulletproof vest when he threw out the first ball at a Cleveland Indians game.
He barely survived a recall election but lost his bid for re-election by a landslide. Then, in the 1990s, he made a political comeback, winning a state Senate seat and eventually capturing a U.S. House seat in 1996.
Kucinich began campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination some eight months ago but trails many of his well-established rivals in fund raising and public opinion polls. He raised $1.7 million during a three-month period ending June 30 and hopes to show an additional $1.5 million when campaign finance reports are filed Wednesday.
"I don't think he's in the race because he thinks he has a chance to win it," said Dave Rohde, a Michigan State University political science professor. "He's in the race, at the very least, to give public vent to some of his concerns."
Kucinich is likely to appear not only on the presidential ballot but as a candidate seeking re-election to his House seat. He must file for both by Jan. 2, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's office.
In other Campaign 2004 developments:
The public relations offensive by the Bush administration comes as polls show Americans increasingly worried by Iraq policy. Mr. Bush says his principles aren't going to change with time or the polls. And he says America won't retreat in the face of terrorist attack in Iraq, declaring, "Americans are not the running kind."
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Kerry said the Bush administration needs to recruit more military help in Iraq and bring the United Nations fully into the picture to have a chance to deter anti-U.S. violence.
By reducing spending and raising taxes on the wealthy, Lieberman believes he can cut the deficit every year he's in office and balance the budget by the end of his second term.
The former vice presidential candidate heads to Connecticut and New Hampshire Monday, the first leg of a five-day trip he hopes will distinguish himself from his eight Democratic rivals.