Emily Buckley, editor in chief
Current republican candidate for United States Senate in Utah, Mitt Romney was the 2012 Republican nominee for President of the United States and served as the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. Prior to that, he led the 2002 Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Winter Olympics. Professionally, he was the co-founder of Bain Capital, a leading investment company, and the turnaround CEO of Bain & Company, an international management consulting firm.
He and his wife, Ann, celebrated 49 years of marriage this year, and are the parents of five sons and 24 grandchildren. Since announcing his bid for Utah Senate in February, Mitt has put 11,000 miles on his 2002 Chevy truck, visiting all 29 counties in Utah, including Cache Valley this week.
While he was in town, Mitt took time to sit down with Cache Valley Family Magazine and answer a few questions. The interview was recorded for our podcast, Breakfast Epiphanies. You can listen here or read below:
Question: Who was your role model as a child?
Mitt Romney: My dad. My dad was a car company executive, and I thought I wanted to be a car company guy just like him. I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and everything was cars for me as a boy.
Question: How do you relax?
Mitt Romney: My favorite thing to do when I’m enjoying myself is be with my grandkids and just watching them play and interact, and doing stuff with them is how I relax best.
Question: What is one word that describes you?
Mitt Romney: Resolute. It’s unusual word, but it means to stick to what I believe.
Question: What is the perfect date night with your wife?
Mitt Romney: Get something that’s good eat, and for me that’s not real fancy fair. I like more simple fair, and maybe a good movie.
Question: What hair product do you use?
Mitt Romney: I will buy a tube of gel or whatever that will keep things sort of under control. I don’t look for any particular brand name, I’m sorry. They are all about the same, I think.
Question: What is your favorite vehicle to drive?
Mitt Romney: I have a 1953 Nash-Healey that my son, Josh, found and bought for me. My dad was head of a car company that made those. So, he found this, it’s kind of a family connection. It’s a two-person convertible, 1953 Nash-Healey.
Question: Why did you choose Utah as your permanent home after retirement?
Mitt Romney: My roots run deep here. As you said, my mom was born in Logan. Her family was raised here, meaning her and her three sisters. My dad was here. My mom and dad dated here. My grandfather was bishop in Salt Lake City for many, many years, and then patriarch of our church in Salt Lake in his ward there. My great, great-grandfather was the architect of the St. George Tabernacle. So, my roots are deep here. But, what really brought us back, however, was grandkids and kids because they were here, and we wanted to be close to them.
Question: You say you want to bring your Utah values to Washington. What specific values do you see making a difference there?
Mitt Romney: Well, of course there are, if you will, political values or economic values, so Utah balances its budget. That’s something I’d like to see Washington do.
Utah welcomes legal immigration and is generous and outpouring to people who’ve come here from other lands. I would like to see that attitude adopted on a broader basis throughout the nation.
Utah also has a growing, vibrant economy which is focused on high-tech and innovation. I think that’s something that the entire country could use. Utah is also a net export state. We send more overseas that we buy from overseas. We could certainly learn from that at the national level as well.
So, those are sort of political values, than there are private, personal values. People in Utah tend to be respectful and civil in our discourse, even if we disagree with someone, we recognize that they are a valid individual. We may disagree, but we respect them personally, and we don’t attack them on a personal basis. I wish we could see attitudes more like that in Washington.
I’ll mention one more thing, and that is that we’re a family-oriented state, meaning that people are proud to raise children and to set them on a life’s course of achievement. A nation needs to have families and needs to have parents bringing families into the world in order to sustain itself. A nation needs to give our kids the values that will endure, not just their happiness, but the success and vitality of our country.
Question: How would you address safety in our public schools? How would you address this issue if you were senator?
Mitt Romney: Well, I happen to think that the best place for teaching our young people is in our homes, and look for parents to be able to teach the kids the values in their homes. I think it’s an advantage for a home to have two parents, and whether it’s a mom and a dad, they’re able to spell each other off when they are at the end of their rope. They have different perspectives as well. They could share sort of strategies for dealing with a child that may be posing some difficulties.
Unfortunately, our federal government has structured its safety net policies in such a way that a lot of people decide to have children outside of wedlock, and that’s becoming a greater and greater share of the births in our country. I would like to change our social safety net to encourage marriage, as opposed to discourage it, so that we have more homes with two parents, where the two parents can collaborate and invest in the future of their child.
Question: How do we keep our kids safe in school?
Mitt Romney: The reality is that we could learn something from the banks, right? Banks have a lot of money that they want to keep safe. They’ve thought through this over the centuries. Of course, our kids are much more valuable to us than money. And so, how do banks make their places safe? Well, they have one entrance, so they limit the number of entry points into a bank, and, number two, they have someone there, a guard who is armed. I think our schools need to have someone at the school or near the school who is armed so that you could deter an attack, and likewise, you need to limit the number of access points into the school. Those are two of the things, but there are others. In Utah, we have the SafeUT app on our cell phones that allows students or parents to notify authorities if there’s someone who appears to represent a threat, and we need to be able to intervene in a circumstance like that. These are the ways, in my view, that are best guided to keep our schools safe.
Question: How do we encourage patriotism in our children?
Mitt Romney: Well, I like the fact that our schools begin with a pledge of allegiance. That’s not true throughout the country. I wish every state was more like Utah in that respect as well –another Utah value, which is having kids say the pledge of allegiance. I think it’s helpful for parents and teachers explain what the pledge of allegiance means. I also believe that our schools ought to teach the history of America in a very complete way about the sacrifices that were made to give us the freedoms we have. I think there are some schools that do that better than others, and I do believe that instead of a federal curriculum being imposed on local schools, the local school districts and the state should craft our own curriculum and make sure our kids are learning about the sacrifices that led to the great nation that we have.
Question: How would you describe the political climate right now?
Mitt Romney: I describe it as being a departure from what we have known over the last couple hundred years of American history, and it has become more mean, more caustic, more vulgar, more attacking, more bullying than we have had in our history, and that we hopefully will get back to something which is more civil and more respectful to one another. I can’t tell you exactly why we have devolved in the way we have, but I think it’s important for people to be elected who have this prospect of bringing some stability back to the discussions in Washington.
You go back to the days of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They went after each other pretty hard, but now there’s an almost nonstop campaigning that goes out to people in these two parties and pretty aggressive language used. And, interestingly, in the state capital, that doesn’t happen. Here in Utah, Republicans and Democrats get along. We may disagree on policy, but we don’t see our legislators attacking each other personally like we’re seeing in Washington. You know, I would like to get us back to a point where we can disagree without being filled with such animosity.
Question: Something on the minds of many of our listeners is social media, and its place in our lives and the lives of our families. It is obviously an important part of marketing for businesses and even for political campaigns nowadays, but it can get volatile fast. How have you tried to avoid the pitfalls of social media and has it been a priority for your campaign to stay positive online?
Mitt Romney: The answer is that I do put out comments on social media where I think there’s something important to call out or to underscore. So, if there’s something which is racist, or anti-woman, or divisive, I will point that out. I think people respect individuals who call them like they see them, but I don’t go out just vitriolic mean spiritedness. And if I do, I recognize I made a mistake, but I do my very best to try and live within the bounds of civility.
And, I think from time to time is good for our young people to get away from social media and not be as attuned to what somebody might be saying about them. I mean, we need to ignore the naysayers out there — stop worrying about what other people are saying about us. Maybe our kids will get a sense of that, so that as they get older, they’ll say, “Oh boy, I’ve been through all that in high school. I’m not going to worry about it now.”
Question: How do you feel about the proposed term limits for Congress and Senate?
Mitt Romney: I’m very much in favor of term limits for Congress and for the Senate. I think it would be ideal if we had a certain period of time that people knew could serve in Washington, and at the end of that time, they knew they were going home. I think it’s unfortunate that we have a permanent political class that seems to go to Washington and aspire to be there for their entire life. I think it is a better model of the way our founders considered it, which is they came off ranches and farms and the businesses and serve and then went home.
Question: Utah is a relatively small state. How can people get involved in unifying our country?
Mitt Romney: Utah is getting to be a bigger state, as you know. When I was here for the Olympics in 2002, we were a state of about 2 million people, and now we are over 3 million. So, we’re growing very quickly overall, and we have a pretty significant influence. I think we have less political clout in part because we’re pretty solidly Republican. I don’t want to change that. But as a result, we’re not a swing state, so the presidential candidates are unlikely to come to Utah to try and sway the voters because they feel this is a solidly Republican colony, but we can have influence by sending people to Washington who we think will have clout there, who can make sure that Utah punches above its weight. I mean, that’s one of the reasons that I’m running, which is I believe by virtue of having of run for president, and having worked with the president as well as with leading senators over the years, that I’ll be able to have a little more influence there than would be the typical junior senator.
Question: Historically, Utah has had a low voter turnout. What is something you can say to make people get out and vote?
Mitt Romney: Well, you haven’t seen my ads yet, but the first ad we went out with my wife going on the TV saying, “I want you to do me a personal favor and send in your ballot.” Now she says for me, but of course she’s biased, but we’re trying to let people know that it’s important to vote. And, sometimes we say, “Well, I can’t make much of a difference.” I hope people recognize that lives were cut short so that we would have the right to vote and to be a democratic and free nation. And when we vote, it’s recognizing the sanctity of those lives lost. And so, we vote for ourselves, meaning we’re making the message that we support those that fought to give us our liberty. Regardless of who we vote for in the election, it is so important, in my opinion, that we signify to our children and to ourselves that we respect the great sacrifice that was made for our right to vote.
Question: As the mother of five daughters growing up in the time of the “me too” movement I often wonder what it will be like for them in the political world, workplace, and leadership. What are your thoughts on this movement?
Mitt Romney: You know, I very much support the recognition that there has been abuse and overbearing behavior by predators … by men, and I support the spirit and the effort of the “me too” movement. I just read an article this morning in Buzzfeed, which spoke about a woman who was applying for a job, and the president of the company sort of took her aside and basically tried to exchange sex for a job. And this happens too often. It should never happen. A young woman should be able to go into the workforce and without having to worry about sexual harassment or any kind of unwanted advances. I’m pleased that it’s finally coming out. I think by the time your girls and my granddaughters are coming into the workforce, there will be a much greater recognition and sensitivity to this issue. And hopefully, they will be entirely free of this kind of burden.
Those of us who have all sons, like I do, I have to make sure they’re learning, just as you with your daughters, have to have them aware, and I think in both cases they have to blow the whistle when they see or hear something that’s over the line.
Question: As we look ahead to the next decade, what should be our greatest priority as citizens and voters?
Mitt Romney: I happen to think that the greatest threat to our nation is a decline in the values and character of America, and I believe that’s what has made us the nation we are. It’s not so much policies as it is character, and it’s the character of Washington with regards to his respect for honesty; Lincoln, his respect for humanity; Teddy Roosevelt for his energy and passion . . . the list goes on: Dwight Eisnehower for his care and thought and deliberativeness. These kinds of qualities are part of the American spirit and the American character. That’s the single most important thing we have as a nation, and that has to be fostered in our homes and I think for the public places as well. Now, I recognize there are other threats: We have economic threats, our deficits and debt are huge problem; we face challenges with technology and the advent of artificial intelligence. All these things are threats down the road, but if our character is solid and we know what the values which our nation is built upon, I believe our future will be bright.
Question: Our podcast is called Breakfast Epiphanies, and we always close with the same question: What is one “epiphany” you’ve had that has changed the way you live your life?
Mitt Romney: Well, there are a number of things that come to mind, but probably the single most important was that when I was relatively young man, I was dating a young woman who was two years younger than me. It became obvious to me that that she was the person I want to spend my life with. She was 16 and I was 18 when I proposed to her. We didn’t get married for four years, but we went steady for those four years, if you will. I was serving a mission for my church and in college, but that was the most single, most important insight that has happened in my life.