Four years after coming achingly close to winning the vice presidency, Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) sparked the Democratic convention crowd Thursday night, calling on America to give John Kerry (search) the chance to make America safe again and create a better tomorrow.

In a speech that reminded Democrats of the 2000 election that put George Bush (search) in the White House, Lieberman said Americans are "yearning to cast a vote, not of protest, but of promise."

The address was a bittersweet moment for Lieberman, who earlier this year saw his own presidential campaign steamrolled by John Kerry in the primaries.

Lieberman, of Connecticut, spoke bluntly on a topic that cost him wide support in the presidential primaries: his unbending backing of the war in Iraq (search).

Comparing the Sept. 11 attacks to previous wars against communism, he said, the conflict in Iraq is a war of values.

"To make America safe again, we need strong leaders who know when to use American power to destroy these Islamist terrorists," he said. "But we also need wise rulers who also know when and how to build bridges with Islamic people throughout the world."

Lieberman will take up the cause almost immediately. He planned to be in Washington Friday morning for Congress' first hearing on the Sept. 11 Commission report, which was released last week. The hearing will focus on two key commission recommendations: creating a national counterterrorism center and a Cabinet-level director of intelligence.

In prepared text, he posed the question that has motivated Democrats throughout the campaign, "Al Gore and I won, didn't we?" But he dropped the line when he delivered the speech to the convention.

His speech also touched on recurring Lieberman themes -- faith and civility. The campaign, he said, should not demonize Bush because such tactics can divide America.

He and Gore won the popular vote only to lose overall after a partial recount in Florida and a Supreme Court decision gave Florida's electoral votes and the election to Bush.

Lieberman said his speech was particularly aimed at independent voters around the country whose support Kerry needs to win but who may agree more with Lieberman's position on the war.