Monique Henderson, a Village Nursing Home employee, left, asked Teresa Heinz Kerry a couple of questions Tuesday at a presidential campaign event for Kerrys husband, Sen. John Kerry.
Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, addressed health workers at the Village Nursing Home on Hudson St. on Tuesday.
The multi-millionaire heiress to the Heinz ketchup fortune told the assembled nurses aides that their work should be more valued by society.
The work that you do is the work of building community and care and all things you cant buy its precious, Heinz Kerry said.
She said hospice workers provided comfort and a sense of family when her mother died five years ago.
Heinz Kerry listened to workers concerns about housing and education, and spoke of her husbands proposal to give high school graduates a free, four-year education at a state university in return for two years of volunteering in their home towns. She also stressed the need for healthier school lunches, better-paid teachers and improved public transportation for those forced by high real estate prices to live far from their jobs.
Her words seemed to resonate with the audience.
I think the things she said are O.K. and I hope it will come to pass, said Marna Johnson, a certified nurses aide. Women are working so hard and the pay is so small.
Heinz Kerry said all workers should have access to the American dream of working their way up in society through hard work. A physicians daughter, Heinz Kerry was born in Africa to European parents. Now in her mid-60s, Heinz Kerry is a naturalized citizen and a philanthropist who works on environmental, health and education issues.
Heinz Kerry was previously married for 25 years to Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania, who died in a plane crash in 1991.
Dressed in an understated tan pantsuit, Heinz Kerry impressed some audience members with her style and her substance.
I like her shes very well spoken, said Annie Kilpatrick, a certified nurses aide. Shes cool and pretty.
She was honest, shes not uptight, shes relaxed like shes at home, said Veronica Yeoman, a nurse manager.
The event was sponsored by S.E.I.U. Local 1199, the healthcare workers union. Arthur Webb, C.E.O. of Village Care of New York, said about 125 of the Village Nursing Homes 200 workers are in the union. Webb introduced Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, who introduced Heinz Kerry. Fields was an early supporter of John Kerry for president.