Mitt Romney’s “Mormon Speech” is expected to come this week, as Romney visits the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas. Blogs and websites more devoted to politics have already analyzed the potential content and political weight of this address far more interestingly than we at BCC can do, so I’ll leave those aspects to the side (except to point out that I believe Mitt is maximizing symmetry with JFK for this address, so I hope he can pull it off with the same caliber of oratory).
I definitely feel unqualified to speak for how Mormons should anticipate or react to Romney’s speech; indeed, judging from the Blogosphere and Bloggernacle the reactions are similar — some trepidation at what he might say, questioning whether his portrayals of faith will have the net effect of being culturally binding on mormons, and wondering whether, doctrinally speaking, Mitt Romney is a mainstream mormon or an evangelical.
Without knowing what he is going to say, I can’t speak as to Mitt Romney’s particular mormonism or the import of his words. So far, I have been a little troubled at some of Romney’s words on religion: I feel he oversanitizes mormonism, turning it into just another kind of mainstream Christianity. I understand why he does this, but sometimes it gets him into trouble, as it did when addressing the issue of Bible inerrancy and the story of Jonah and the Whale. Don’t get me wrong — I understand the intent, and welcome his efforts at rapprochement, but I also fear losing our cultural uniqueness.
I also have serious policy problems with Romney: I would not “double Guantanamo,” and on this and other points Romney and I part ways. This may be just as well, as I am unable to vote and probably wouldn’t be within his target demo even were I more than a dirty Canuck.
Notwithstanding my political and religious trepidation about Romney, let me provide you with what endorsement I can about the man: he has great kids.
I first met Mitt’s son Matt at BYU freshman year many moons ago, where we had a number of friends in common. Later, Matt and I would serve together in the Paris, France mission, and we got to know each other fairly well. Like his father, Matt also had (and still has) great hair. Matt was a helluva guy then; charismatic and affable, but with real intellect and analytic skills. He spoke on occasion of his family and his father, and it was clear to me then that there is real love and affection in the Romney home. Post-mission, I ran into Matt a few times at BYU and although we later lost touch, I can say that I was left with the indelible impression that he was a great guy from a great family.
Over a decade later, I got to know another Romney as Craig and his wife Mary moved into our ward. We only were in the same ward for a few months, but again I was impressed with the man: genial, interesting and a quality guy.
I touched base with Matt again a few weeks ago, to talk to him about the campaign and how it’s affected his life. It’s been all-consuming on the entire family, in terms of time put into the various roadtrips and fundraisers, but also in terms of public scrutiny and media coverage. Everything anyone in the family says or does is instantly under the microscope. To Matt, at least, “Dad” turning into “Mr. President” is weird and exciting at the same time. Everyone in the family has come together to rally for their father and work together on the campaign. It’s a non-stop family effort, but there has never been any question as to the loyalty and devotion of the children for their father.
I can’t speak as to what Romney’s Big Speech will say, and I don’t know that politically his vision is the same as mine. But I definitely can endorse the kind of family Mitt Romney has produced, and the creation of such a group speaks volumes. If I had any hope for The Big Speech this week, it would be that Romney shows the world that he is the kind of man that is a good father and a decent human being, and the kind of man who would do his best to help build a nation of good parents and decent human beings. I could support a candidate like that.