Kerry wife defends women, right to speak

BOSTON, Reuters

Teresa Heinz Kerry tackled the notion of her outspokenness head on at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday with the hope that some day women will have the same freedom as men to speak their minds.

The wife of Sen. John Kerry kicked off her highly anticipated prime-time speech by telling delegates that “by now, I hope it will come as no surprise that I have something to say.”

“My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called ‘opinionated’ is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish,” she told the crowd that was set to nominate her husband as the Democratic presidential candidate.

“My only hope is that, one day soon, women, who have all earned their right to their opinions instead of being labeled opinionated will be called smart and well-informed, just like men.”

Increasingly known for her outspoken style, the wife of the soon-to-be nominee disappointed those who may have been waiting for her to spark a controversy or make an off-the-cuff remark.

Kerry watchers — supporters and detractors alike — were paying close attention since she angrily told a reporter to “shove it” just as the four-day convention was about to get under way in Boston.

In a soft, slow, slightly accented voice, Heinz Kerry said in an uncharacteristically scripted address that America needs a leader who can “return America to its moral bearings.”

“I think I’ve found that guy,” she said to warm applause. “And I’m married to him.”

She drew heavily on her experience growing up in a dictatorship in Mozambique and studying in racially segregated South Africa and reminded delegates that she speaks five languages by greeting them in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, before continuing in English. Heinz Kerry was trained as a translator.

Kerry watched his wife, clad in a rust-colored suit, from his hotel room in Philadelphia. “She looks great,” he said.

Heinz Kerry’s speech brought delegates at the convention to their feet, clapping and waving signs reading “We Love Teresa.”

“She just made my heart pound,” said Mary Graham of Houston, Mississippi. “I like a woman who’s not afraid to say what she thinks. I think she’s the shot in the arm we’ve been needing.”

Heinz Kerry, 65, was married to Pennsylvania Republican Sen. John Heinz for 25 years. After his death in a plane crash in 1991, she assumed oversight of the Heinz family philanthropic foundations.

She and Kerry have been married for nine years. They have five children, including Chris Heinz who introduced her.

Her son said he recalled meeting his future stepfather and thinking “the only man good enough for my mother is the president of the United States.”

“I think it’s going to work out,” he said.