CARTHAGE, Tenn. (AP) _ Al Gore formally began his drive for the presidency today, promising moral leadership in a speech that signals his independence from Bill Clinton and makes ``the crisis in the American family'' the centerpiece of his campaign.

``With your help, I will take my own values and faith and family to the presidency _ to build an America that is not only better off, but better,'' he told a hometown crowd of thousands on Main Street. He was introduced by his wife and one of his daughters.

``And that is why today, I announce that I am a candidate for the president of the United States,'' he declared to the cheers of the crowd.