Mitt Romney spoke at the BYU Forum on Tuesday, sharing the behind-the-scenes lessons he learned while running for President, and sometimes joking with the students about his experiences. He said, for instance, that rather than saying he lost in his race for the presidency, he prefers to say, “I won the silver medal.”
He also said that despite his loss, the experience was “extraordinary and revealing. I’ve come away more optmistic about the country. I’ve met people from across the nation, people who don’t make the nightly news, but people who make daily innovations and discoveries that propel our economy and provide for our future. I’ve met parents who sacrifice their resources and their careers in some cases for their kids, military men and women who willingly serve in some of the most hostile environments on the earth and while it’s fashionable in some circles to deny it, I firmly believe that America is the greatest nation on earth.”
Here are extensive excerpts from his speech:
He said, “At the beginning of a campaign you experience a great deal of what I’ll call unwelcome anonymity. Nobody knows who you are…I was at a hotel in SanFrancisco, and I had arranged for a massage to loosen my back. After hundreds of handshakes my back got tight on the one side. The masseuse who was obviously unaware of my political career, she remarked to an associate, ‘Mr. Romney has strong legs. He’s a dancer, isn’t he?’
Silent Notes Taking
“The anonymity is soon lost and in some remarkable ways. During my last campaign I was taken aside by one of our national security agencies and I was informed that all my emails were being monitored and closely read by a foreign government. In fact the same was true for all the people who had emailed me, my staff, my friends, my family. All of their emails were also being monitored by the government of that nation. And believe it or not the words of a hymn came to my mind, ‘Angels above us are silent notes taking, of every action, then do what is right.’
“The government involved was no angel, but our words and deeds may well be recorded in heaven and so I presume are the pages we open on the Internet and the sites we browse. Our anonymous surfing may not be recorded on earth but it surely leaves an imprint in the book of life. Remember every day you’re writing your autobiography.
“Now early in the campaign it can be difficult to attract an audience to a political rally, particularly if it is during working hours, and I remember early during my campaign one event we’d scheduled in New Hampshire. We have a summer home in that state in Wolfboro but the rally was at least an hour away from our home. I knew the media that followed the campaign would read alot into whether or not I’d attracted a crowd to this event or not.
“You can imagine how relieved I was to see a large and enthusiastic audience greeting me. Looking closer I realized I was looking at almost the entire Wolfboro branch of the Church. Fortunately, the media hadn’t figured that out.
“Now there will be times in your life when you feel that it’s a bit of a burden being a member of the Church. Some folks will think you’re not Christian. Some may be insulted that you don’t drink with them. Or others may think you’re trying to be better than them by not swearing. But I can confirm this based on that experience and many others in my life. Your fellow members of the Church will be a blessing that far more than compensates. They will bless you when you’re sick, lift you up when you fall, help you raise a teenager, counsel you about a job, and yes, even move your unpacked junk into an apartment.
“We are not perfect. As a matter of fact in many things we’re probably no better than anybody else, but we are remarkably good as a people at reaching out our hands to one another in need. Decide to be one of those who does just that.”
Fame Comes and Goes in a Minute
Romney spoke of the transience of fame.
He said, “At my first 2012 presidential debate in Denver, the miles of Interstate expressway from my hotel all the way to the auditorium were closed to all traffic–for me.
“My motorcade was led by 30 or so motorcycles and police vehicles. Their lights were flashing red and blue. I was accompanied by the Secret Service that included not only the detail of agents that surrounded me and our bullet-proof SUV, but also the tactical unit that follows, armed with machine guns and sitting with an open rear tailgate facing any vehicle that might come from behind. And the Secret Service was only the icing on the adulation cake.
“Day after day thousands of people were shouting my name, investing in me their hopes for victory. The day before the election Kid Rock electrified a packed arena for me and the crowd cheered for Ann and me when we were introduced for three solid minutes before we could speak.
“The day after the election was different. The Secret Service was gone. The cheers were gone as well, replaced by agonizing reappraisal by others of what had gone wrong. And I was back driving my own car, filling my own gas tank, buying groceries at Costco just like I’d been doing for several decades before.
“Now truthfully, Ann and I had never been caught up in all the flurry. I know that may be hard to believe, but throughout the journey we saw ourselves in exactly the same way we had throughout our marriage. We knew that win or lose, any acclaim would eventually be forgotten. As Jimmy Durante, a singer from long ago once sang, ‘Fame if you win it, comes and goes in a minute.’
“What we treasure from the campaign was not the pomp and the popularity. It was the friends that we made.” He said the night he climbed on the stage to concede victory to President Obama, many of the Secret Service agents who had spent time with them fought back the tears.
He told students to keep perspective, “Now, living life can be self-consuming. Who you are can be overshadowed by what you do or by what you’ve done. If you allow that to happen, the inevitable twists and turns of secular life can warp your self confidence and limit your ambition and test your faith and depress your happiness.
“You are not defined by secular measures. You’re the child of a Heavenly Father who loves you. You’re his work and his glory and that statement confirms your incomparable worth. This statement also informs your life’s most important work–to lift others, to lift your family and spouse if you’re married and to remain true and faithful to the Almighty.”
“Now I can’t speak about my election loss without adding a few thoughts about how I think God works,” he said. “First, God does not always intervene in the affairs of men to make things work out the way we’d like them to. In our heads we all know that. But I can’t tell you how many members of the Church I’ve spoken to over my life who think God will help their business succeed, or help them get the promotion they want or make their investments profitable.
“I don’t think God will intervene to help you get rich. There may be some exceptions, but I wouldn’t count on it. What he does guarantee is written in the Doctrine & Covenants 90:24. ‘Search diligently, pray always and be believing and all things shall work together for your good, if you walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.’
“I once rode in a car with Elder F. Enzio Bushe, then of the Seventy. As I recall the conversation–and it’s been awhile–he related that while he was a businessman in Germany the company that he owned was in dire condition, on a path towards bankruptcy and liquidation. He was distraught. One night in great pain and sadness he went into a field and knelt in the cold and the dark and he poured out his heart to The Lord, hour after hour, and miraculously, he actually heard a voice from heaven, but only one word was spoken, and that word–work. More often than not our secular affairs are up to us. Don’t count on God to save you from the consequences of your decisions or to arrange earthly affairs to work in your favor.”
Staying Grounded in Debates
Romney said he was not a high school debater and, “until I got into politics, the only person I’d ever debated was my five-year-old son Matt, and he usually won. My 2012 campaign had 23 televised debates, 20 with fellow Republicans and three with President Obama. These guys were no debate slouches. Newt Gingrich had been Speaker of the House. President Obama had been president for four years. He had his facts nailed down by then.
“So you may have read that one of the candidates for governor this year in Florida put a fan under the podium when he debated. I know why. Debating can be sweaty business and so before everyone of my debates, I did something to keep things in perspective, to keep myself grounded.
“At the top of a sheet of paper that was always placed on the podium, just before the debate kicked off, I wrote at the top one word, ‘Dad.’ I also drew a small image of the sun. Throughout the debate I glanced down at that paper to look at my notes I’d taken I was reminded of my father’s fearlessness in fighting for what he believed was right. And the sun, that reminded me of that familiar scripture, ‘Let your light so shine.’ Win or lose that debate, I hoped that I would never do anything that would dishonor or discredit the things that I hold most dear.
“Now during your life,” he said, “you’re going to encounter circumstances that make you sweat. For many of you the exams and tests won’t be over when you graduate. And you’re all going to stand at podiums, stand in front of a boss to ask for a raise, or work on some critical project at your employment that will make a big difference in your life.
“At moments like those perspective is a very powerful friend. You can welcome perspective through preparatory prayer, by considering the blessings of the temple, or by simply glancing at your CTR ring. Find ways to keep your life in perspective.”
Romney said that one of the most meaningful parts of his campaign was meeting remarkable people like Lech Walesa in Poland, Cardinal Dolan in New York City, and Billy Graham at his mountain home.
“I met the Lutheran former bishop of Stockholm. His counsel on judging other religions, by the way, was instructive. Let me pass that along. He said he had three rules for understanding another faith. First, learn about that faith from one of its adherents, not from one of its detractors. Second, compare the best of one religion with the best of another, not the best of one with the worst of another. And third, he said, leave room for religious jealousy. I said, ‘What do you mean by religious jealousy?’ He said, ‘In every religion he’d encountered, there was something he wishes were part of his church. Among Mormons, for instance, he spoke of our missionary program. Among Catholics, their reverence for the Pope, and so forth.’
The Influence of One Single Person
He said, “I was impressed with the enormity of the influence of one single person. Time and again, one person makes all the difference in the lives of multitudes. One man ushered in the freedom of an entire nation. One man led to an Evangelical awakening. And as we know one man restored the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth. Each of you here will influence other lives. Think of that. Perhaps you’ll shape history. Perhaps you’ll shape one person’s history. Consider with care how you act, what you say and to what you devote your life to because I assure you, your choices will shape the lives of other people.”
He said across the country he met people who were heroes to him—like Jim Wilson who came to 150 rallies and put 40,000 miles on his 1998 GMC pickup just to support his presidency and family members who were there to lean on.
He said, “My family members are my heroes. America needs heroes. You don’t have to be larger than life to be a hero, just larger than yourself. We see heroes everyday. Scoutmasters, primary teachers, missionaries, campaign volunteers, parents. I hope you’ll choose to be a hero because this world needs a lot more of them.
“Now one of the best and worst things about a campaign is you get alot of advice. Usually several times a day, someone in the audience would hand me a letter with their 100% sure-fire way for me to win an election. I was told to take bigger steps when I walked to show that I’m young and athletic. Another person said I should stop shaving for a few days to look more sexy… Of course, the best advice comes from the people closest to you.
“I’d been a frequent speaker in church and I figured I didn’t need a lot of advice on giving a speech. Wrong. Political speeches are different than church speeches. My Dad, by the way, when he was governor of Michigan, joked that he had once ended a campaign speech with “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
“My error wasn’t that obvious, but my chief strategist, closest to me, helped me to shorten my long stories to find applause lines and to slow down. Advice from your spouse, by the way, can be a tricky thing. Ann is my best advisor, but I also look uniquely to her for affirmation and support. She’s perfected the art of first heaping on the praise and then ever so gently ladling on a word of advice, because when it comes to marriage, reproving betimes with sharpness is not a good idea. It can lead to many long and dreary nights.
“Now just like I did during the campaign, you need to have a life coach. You need to have someone who will tell you the truth, tell you that the perfect mate you’ve been looking for is no more perfect than you are, tell you when you are wrong, tell you what you need to do to make things right. I can assure you that finding someone who cares enough about you to tell you the truth and then is willing to take time to give you their counsel and their coaching, that’s invaluable. Look for it.”
The Truly Famous in Jerusalem
One of Romney’s fondest campaign memories was his trip to Israel to have dinner with his old friend Benjamin Netanyahu who had worked with him at the Boston Consulting Group. They stayed at the famous King David Hotel. While Ann was unpacking she lamented that she had forgotten her Bible. In a few minutes an Israeli security guard arrived at their room and handed her a Bible. Romney said, “Apparently he was listening to everything said in our room. Again, angels are silent notes taking.”
In their room they noticed a large leather book on their coffee table, the guest book for the hotel. He said, “We saw the signatures of Margaret Thatcher, Jimmy Carter, President Obama, Richard Nixon, George Herbert Walker Bush, Tony Blair, and also, by the way, Madonna and Bono. We were duly impressed, but the next day Ann and Josh went to see the Garden Tomb, believed to be Jesus’s final earthly resting place.
“Of course, his signature is not in the King David Hotel guest book. Unlike the hotel’s famous guests, he was not only a visitor to Jerusalem, he was its very foundation. We can never forget that we are his disciples. We may not hobnob with the famous, but with prayer we can speak with God every day. I’m so very thankful that I found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s informed who I am and to what my life has been devoted. It has provided the eternal ordinances of salvation and marriage. I love the Church. I love the members of the Church. I love the music of the Church. It’s my witness to each of you that following its precepts and its prophets will bring incomparable happiness, now and forever.”