Teresa Heinz Kerry: Vote For Obama

Teresa Heinz Kerry had an op-ed in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week backing Barack Obama:

Election days are always special to me. I grew up in a land where there were no election days.

The Mozambique of my childhood was governed by a right-wing dictatorship in far-away Portugal. My father, a wise and good man, was 71 years old when he voted for the first time. I never cast a ballot until I became a citizen of the United States. But when I did, it was for a young man who spent years teaching me about the needs of Pennsylvania’s working families and the good our government can do for them — my late husband, Sen. John Heinz. He helped me learn how precious a right suffrage is — as a weapon against tyranny; as an instrument of hope, progress and change.

That is why, this year, I will cast my vote in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Pennsylvania needs a president like Barack Obama, someone who understands the tough times Pennsylvanians are facing. Raised with much love but in challenging circumstances by a single mom and grandparents, he knows firsthand the stress and financial pressures families face. When he beat the odds and put himself through college, he could have made good money with a big-name law firm anywhere in the country, but he chose the gritty streets of Chicago’s South Side where, as a community organizer, he worked helping families like his build better lives.

Mr. Obama’s work taught him what happens to families and communities when factories shut down and jobs go overseas. He knows firsthand the devastation and despair the global economy can bring — and how important hope is in overcoming setbacks and getting lives and neighborhoods back on track.

But there’s more to Mr. Obama than hope. There’s a practical approach to economic recovery. It starts with a tax cut of up to $1,000 — for middle-class families, not for millionaires. And Mr. Obama believes that there can be no “free” trade without fair trade. He’s committed to fixing NAFTA, so that it works for American workers. For those whose jobs are threatened by foreign trade, Mr. Obama supports reforms to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program so that workers can be retrained before they lose their jobs.

Mr. Obama’s health-care plan will cover every child in America, and help families afford the same kind of insurance he and I both have, by giving them access to the same plan that covers Congress. He’ll simplify paperwork and ensure no family can be turned down, regardless of pre-existing conditions. As I saw in Sen. Heinz, and as I see in my husband, Sen. John Kerry, a personal connection to working families drives Mr. Obama in his passion to get working Americans and seniors access to affordable insurance.

But Mr. Obama wants more; he wants the United States to win the race to the next economic era by increasing federal investment in research and development, in education and training and workforce development so we can pioneer the green technologies that will lessen our dependence on foreign oil, slow global warming and create not only high-tech, high-wage jobs but also all the good jobs that follow.

Mr. Obama’s background and passion make him the right choice for all of us worried about bringing a broader prosperity back to Western Pennsylvania; he will lead a surge of voters next November and then build coalitions across party lines to put people back to work. When I think of the problems facing working mothers waiting tables or stocking shelves in Pittsburgh, I think of how much we need a president who can unite us across race and region to fight for economic security for these women and their families.

I am also eager for a leader who will keep our homeland secure while upholding the high ideals on which this country was founded. After eight years of a president who twisted evidence and manipulated our fears to goad this nation into an unnecessary war, and a vice president who seems never to have read the Constitution; after seeing our moral authority blurred by torture, rendition and Abu Ghraib, I am excited about a candidate who knows that we can safeguard our security and still preserve our civil liberties.

In Sen. Barack Obama I see not just a president but a transformative leader, a candidate with a unique gift. He is a man who has drawn the disinterested and dispirited into his campaign, challenging them to become bigger than themselves.

Pennsylvania needs a president who knows that our hopes, not our fears, make America strong. And above all, we need a president who will give us our optimism back, who believes in us enough to ask us to do our part, to sacrifice and to dream together.

Barack Obama will be that president. I believe he stands apart from others not just as a capable politician, but as an American of true vision. Thousands of Pennsylvanians, tired of the divisive politics, have already switched registration so they can vote for change and for hope — for Barack Obama. At a moment when so much needs to be done, Mr. Obama’s ability to bring us together, to inspire us and challenge us makes him uniquely qualified to hold the most powerful office in the world.

In the bicentennial year of 1976, Pennsylvania took a chance on a smart, hard-working and optimistic young congressman named John Heinz and made him their senator. They made a wise choice. He worked across the aisle to tackle the tough problems of the 1970s and 1980s — saving Social Security, reforming nursing home care, demanding fair trade, offering new solutions to environmental problems. He proved that, when you love people and put their interest ahead of politics you can make a real difference.

That is the spirit I see in Barack Obama and why I look forward to voting to make him our 44th president.

The “audacity of hope” means a vote for change. Vote for Barack.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment