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July 28, 2004
Heinz Kerry's challenge
As Teresa Heinz Kerry took the stage in Boston the night of July 27, her husband, John Kerry, watched her on TV from a hotel room in Philadelphia (He?l soon be arriving to give his acceptance speech on July 29). ?he looks good,he was quoted as saying by CNN. Trust me, not as good as she looks and projects in person. Let me explain. My first job in Washington was covering the Pennsylvania delegation for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Press in the late '70s, when her first husband John Heinz was an up-and-coming Republican senator from the Keystone State. You could not make up the turn of events that put Teresa Heinz Kerry on the Democratic stage tonight?er ambitious first husband dying in a horrible helicopter crash while campaigning, raising her sons alone, later marrying another ambitious Democratic politician. But I? bet she never would have imagined in a million years she? stand on the brink of becoming First Lady like this (maybe she thought about the possibility with John Heinz, but not like this).
Sure, she? rich beyond imagination, which always helps in managing the vagaries of life. And she? certainly outspoken (you saw that in her speech: ?pinionated is a right I deeply cherish. And yes, she has an in-your-face, feisty side which has been well-reported on, and which Americans saw on display when she told an editorial page writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to ?hove it(caught on videotape) On the stage before the delegates in Boston, her most public appearance yet, her Portuguese-by-way-of-Mozambique-by-way-of-America story was amplified in ways I? never seen before.
What? most interesting to me, however, having a chance to cover and know her a bit during my Pittsburgh days, is how her style and substance seems to get lost on the public stage. In the spotlight, her grace and personality seem to wither. And yet, she is one of the most disarmingly charming people in person that I have ever met. (She used to poke fun at Heinz in front of reporters, not in a mean way, but in a way that she knew would amuse us, and he? just laugh and shake his head, like Kerry does.) Speaking of her own view of America, she said tonight, ?t is a moral nation that rejects greed in favor of thoughtful and generous actions.That, in a nutshell, is Teresa Heinz Kerry? personal code, and she has wanted everyone she has ever met to know it. It?l be interesting, to me at least, to see whether she can ever meld the private person and the public figure sides of her very complex nature.
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