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Inside Politics

Teresa Heinz Kerry promotes 'women's voices'

Candidate's wife addresses Democratic convention

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

Teresa Heinz Kerry touches her heart as she greets cheering Democratic delegates Tuesday night.
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Day Three: Wednesday

• Theme: "A Stronger, More Secure America"

• 4 p.m. ET: Session opens

• 7-9 p.m. ET: Speakers include Elijah Cummings, John Edwards' daughter Cate, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Ed Rendell

• 9 p.m. ET: Speakers include Bill Richardson, Jennifer Granholm, Claudia Kennedy

• 10 p.m. ET: Elizabeth Edwards introduces her husband, John Edwards for his keynote address

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Teresa Heinz Kerry, an unconventional and outspoken political spouse, declared Tuesday night it was time to "hear women's voices" as she appeared before the Democratic National Convention to make the case for her husband's election to the White House.

"This evening, I want to acknowledge and honor the women of this world, whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted," Heinz Kerry, 65, told an enthusiastic, receptive audience of delegates and alternates inside the FleetCenter. "It is time for the world to hear women's voices -- in full and at last."

The widow of a Republican senator and the wife now of a Democratic senator, the African-born Heinz Kerry addressed her reputation for speaking her mind -- at times bluntly. (Read transcript)

"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 said to loud cheers. "My only hope is that, one day soon, women who have all earned the right to their opinions -- instead of being called 'opinionated' will be called smart and well-informed, just like men."

Turning to the election, Heinz Kerry called her husband "a fighter" and said John Kerry would lead the nation by "showing the face, not of our fears, but of our hopes."

Heinz Kerry never mentioned the Republican opposition, but praised her husband. She referenced, for example, his military service during the Vietnam War -- a theme frequently advanced by the Kerry campaign.

"He earned his medals the old-fashioned way, by putting his life on the line for his country," she said.

A wealthy benefactress -- by virtue of the vast fortune she inherited with the death of her first husband, John Heinz -- Heinz Kerry also turned to issues she has focused on with her charitable organizations: the environment, children and women.

"We can and we will create good, competitive and sustainable jobs while still protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health of our children, because good environmental policy is good economics," she said.

Her speech, delivered in a soft Portuguese lilt, was scripted -- a change in style for a woman known for her off-the-cuff comments.

Heinz Kerry grabbed headlines at the start of the convention after telling a reporter to "shove it" when he questioned her about a speech she had given -- in which she touched on the erosion of civility in politics.

That remark and her penchant for straying from the political message of the day seemed to tickle many delegates at the convention.

Beuenia Brown, a delegate from New York, said Heinz Kerry's candor was refreshing. "I think that when a person is outspoken, I think of them as honest," Brown said. "I don't see them as having to connive. They're speaking from the heart."

Tim Mauldin, a delegate from Oklahoma, agreed. "She's just an example of a woman who doesn't feel it's her place in politics to be quiet."

Heinz Kerry's path to the American political scene was circuitous. She was born in Mozambique, the daughter of a Portuguese doctor and his British-born wife. She became a U.S. citizen in 1971.

Educated in South African and Swiss schools, she speaks several languages, including French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. She sprinkled her speech with words of welcome in those languages.

"I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is," Heinz Kerry said.

She met Heinz while she studied at a graduate school in Switzerland and he worked as a banker. Heinz, who later became a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, was killed in a plane accident in 1991. The couple had three sons, one of whom, Chris, has been a high-profile campaigner for his stepfather.

Chris Heinz introduced his mother Tuesday night, calling her "a true visionary," "a remarkable woman" and the "next first lady of the United States."

She married Kerry in 1995, and she became a Democrat in 2003.

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