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Mama T: Teresa Heinz Kerry

Teresa Heinz Kerry's no-nonsense style and unabashed outspokenness have been the talk of the Dewmocratic convention this week in Boston, but she displayed another lesser-known side when The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm sat down with her: She's a protective mother.

Having been a political wife for more than 30 years, she told Storm what she would say, should one of her three sons decide to run for office.

"Keep your head on, listen to your heart, remember who you are," Mrs. Kerry said. "Meaning, remember all the things you're taught."

As a mother, she said, she has been demanding in many respects. "I come from an old-fashioned background," she explained.

Born 65 years ago, Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira was reared by Portuguese parents in what she said was a traditional but loving household in Mozambique.

"I always taught my children they had to treat people properly or I would smack them," she said. "I always taught them never to drink and drive, and never to drive with someone who was drinking."

It wasn't only common sense that made this one of her central parenting tenets; it was personal tragedy.

"That's how my sister was killed," Mrs. Kerry said. "Someone fell asleep at the wheel who had been drinking, and she was 19. And I told them if you ever get drunk, if you should ever be stuck, call a cab; stay where you are, call me. I don't care, but do not do it."

She faced another devastating loss in 1991 when her husband of nearly 30 years, Sen. John Heinz III, was killed in a plane collision. Again she turned her suffering into a positive force, eventually taking charge of the vast family fortune and philanthropic foundation she inherited, giving millions to those in need. But her main concern has always been her boys.

"And then the other thing is drugs," Mrs. Kerry added. "I said if you ever do anything, come and tell me about it. And if you do cocaine, I'll kill you. And they'd say, 'Why, mom?' And I said. 'By the time you know it'll be so tough; by that time you know, you'll be hooked, and you don't want to go through that.' So I always kept the door open for them to talk to me."

Mama T, as friends and family call her, also worked to prevent her children from becoming couch potatoes.

She said, "I love them a lot. I read a lot of books; didn't let them watch much television, a half an hour a day. Once they started to get verbal, I made them write book reports, one paragraph, and if they couldn't write well enough, they'd tell me why they wanted to watch that show. They could pick the show, but they had to tell me why they liked it and what was so important. So I wanted them to learn to watch a program rather than watch television. The whole thing about teaching children is to give them parameters, demand responsibility.

"I'm proud of my boys. I'm thankful and grateful that they're good kids."

John IV, Andre, and Chris Heinz are now all in their 30s. They're not quite still "boys," and so Mrs. Kerry is thrilled to have a 4-year-old granddaughter to take care of.

Recently, Mrs. Kerry has been answering media questions about the incident in which she told a journalist to "shove it.

"I always say what I think. I don't go out and say it, willy-nilly, for its own sake, but when called upon, I do," Mrs. Kerry told Storm and looking back, she said she has no regrets.

"I wanted him to back off because he was trying to trap me with words I hadn't said," she said. "I think that's my right, and I think you would do that, too, if someone attacked your integrity."

Being scrutinized is not something that worries her.

"None of us is perfect," she said. "If some one is really attacking your honor or trying get you, I think most Americans, most people, would say, 'Defend yourself.' And that's what I did."

Can she reconcile her image as a strong, smart, independent, accomplished woman with what is perceived to be proper decorum for a first lady?

She said, "It's absolutely possible, and I do it. I just do. That's how I was taught. That's how I was brought up."

And criticism is not something she shies away from.

"I don't mind criticism, provided it's intelligent, not gratuitous," she said. "I'm not perfect, Lord knows. And I have opinions and so do other people. The only thing one hopes is that when people criticize you, they've really thought about it. And I would hope that my friends and those that are not my friends, but would think about whatever, would criticize me with that in mind, which is to make it be better. That's what criticism should be for. Other kinds of criticism, you know, it's a free country."

Mrs. Kerry also said she feels she doesn't have to answer to anyone except her own conscience.

What she misses most is not being able to go to church or to the park by herself, she said and noted she had some reservations about her husband's running for president.

"Scared," she said, "Of the awesomeness of this job. Not responsibility. You can see the faces of presidents when they go in and when they come out. It's a huge weight, a great honor, obviously, but it's weight and you lose for a time being, anyway, some freedom, movement."

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