Mitt Romney responds to BYU students’ questions


The last three questions from the Q&A session answered by Romney. At minute 3:02, a student from the audience interrupts Academic Vice President Brent Webb and asks Romney his own question.

Elliott Miller

Click here to read a summary of Mitt Romney’s University Forum address.

BYU Academic Vice President Brent Webb asked Mitt Romney nine questions in a Q&A session following Romney’s campus-wide forum speech on Tuesday, but one unsuspecting student from the crowd shouted out the tenth.

“One final question,” Webb said.

“Are you running for president?” the student interrupted.

The crowd in the Marriott Center broke into wild applause and laughter. Romney, over the crowd, laughed along and answered.

“I did that, actually,” he responded.

The 30-minute Q&A session followed Romney’s devotional this morning.

A week earlier BYU had invited its Facebook friends to write questions directed toward Romney.

Questions ranged from citizen participation in government to whether Romney would consider being vice president. More than 200 Facebook users submitted a question on the post. Below are the selected questions Romney fielded.

Zach Baughan: In your book, “No Apology” you often speak of building a “stronger America.” As students at BYU, how can WE contribute in building a stronger America so that we may stay the most powerful country in the world?

Romney: I’ll keep this brief, because we all know the answer. I would say voting. It’s amazing how many people don’t vote. People think that their vote won’t count, and when you have millions and millions of people making that calculation, it hurts the country. Number two, in my view, remaining strong in your faith, whether you’re of my faith or another faith. I’d add to that as well family, raising good kids is probably as important a contribution as someone could make to building a strong America.

This may be a bit of a surprise, but working hard. Being in a job and contributing to the enterprise, whether it’s in a very menial way or a very significant way. If you can invent something and build something, even better. You realize that every dollar we have to spend only has value if it represents a good or a service produced in the private sector.

Living a full life in your community, in your home, in your faith, and in your occupation builds a stronger nation.

Zak Corbridge: Apart from God, what would you say has been the biggest enabling power in your life? ..Career in private sector? Education? Family?

Romney: Well of course family and my relationship with my wife. Ann and I are a team. We met very young; I consider that a good fortune for me because I was probably inclined to go off the rail somehow. I fell in love heavy and hard. We were in high school when I fell in love and I decided going on a mission was not a good idea because I did not want to leave her. I figured she’d come out here and find one of you or one like you and I’d lose her. I suggested I wasn’t gonna go, but she insisted I go. She was not a member of the Church at that time and she insisted I go and felt it was important for me, and it was.

Clearly my relationship with her. My dad was a very accomplished guy, and he rose from very humble beginnings. His family was very poor at points in their life. He became head of a big car company, became governor of state, three times elected, and ran for president, and Ann and I asked him when he was in his 80-some-odd year, what the most meaningful accomplishment in his life was. And without hesitation he said “raising our four kids.”

No question, that’s what is most fulfilling in life is a relationship with the person you love and with your children. So pretty easy answer to that.

Malissa Kay Richardson: I admire the supportive and loving relationship you have with your wife. What are her most admirable qualities and how has she contributed to your success?

Romney: Come here, come here honey. (Mitt brings Ann up to the podium) Number one, she’s gorgeous and hot, I mean, who else would wear something pink like this? Why do you fall in love? Who knows what chemistry is there that makes it happen. Ann was very shy in high school and has become this extraordinary speaker. People like me they love Ann, and so do I. Anything you want to add?

Ann Romney: It’s just wonderful to see so many young faces here because it’s brings back the memories of what it was like to have been a student here. You’ve got your life ahead of you, and how wonderful is that. And again, who would have thought that Mitt and I would be here speaking to a student body, when you think of where we were just sitting in the chairs like you are so you never know what’s ahead of you.

Collin Thomas Ryan Mathias: How do you balance family life with public life?

Romney: Balance is something I’m always asked about, about work, family, church, community. I once joked that if you’re not fulfilling all the things you’d like to do in your family, if you’re not getting the job done at work and you’re not fulfilling your church callings like you ought to then things are in balance. But the truth is, for me, family came first. Family, faith and our country, and those are the things that are meaningful to me and you give yourself to those things as you can.

The Church I belong to, that most of you belong to here, has the principle of tithing, giving 10 percent of your income to God. We also practiced a sense of time tithing; we plan to give ten percent of our time to our church or to our community. And that has been something which we have followed throughout our entire life.

There’s a tendency, sometimes, by the way, for people to think that instead of balancing all these things all the time, that you should do one for some time and another for a different time and another for a different time. Such as, you’re gonna go off to graduate school so you’re gonna put your marriage aside because you want to make it work in graduate school and you won’t accept any church callings. That, in my opinion, is a big mistake.

A lot of people at the end of the day bring their work home from work in a briefcase, or now, an iPad, and they devote themselves after dinner to continuing work. I made it a practice, unless there was a very unusual circumstance, that when I came home from work and shut the door, I devoted myself entirely to the home and the family. Home was my sanctuary from everything else in the world.

If I wasn’t working, I felt there was this cloud hanging over me that I should be working or studying. I decided I wasn’t going to do any more studying on a Sunday. And this isn’t a commandment to you, I don’t suggest everybody do the same thing I did, but I just said “I’m not gonna study at all on Sunday” and it was such a relief. For a whole day I got to worship and be with the family and it was marvelous. I would suggest that every part of life that is valuable to you … play an active part in that living.

Bryce Bunting: What is your response to those who say Democrats can’t be good members of the Church?

Romney: I would say “Boloney. And ridiculous” is my response to that. Obviously democrats can be good members of the Church, and there are members of the Church who are democrats that have been members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as well as members throughout the Church who are members of the Democratic Party. I question their judgment but not their religion … that’s a joke, by the way.

Let me just characterize that for you because as you’re thinking about a political party or a person you’re gonna support, your decision is often based on what issue is forefront on your mind at the time. And as a member of the Church, the issue might be poverty and how you can help people get out of poverty or help people that are poor. There are two kind of different views about that on the part of some republicans and some democrats.

Some democrats, for instance, might say “look we need to give more benefits and more food and healthcare to the poor. And that could be very motivating and could be why someone chose to be a democrat. A republican might argue, “No, sometimes providing too much for people will make them become entrapped in poverty. We need to help them get better education and childcare and therefore able to get good jobs.” So there are two different philosophies in some cases. Those are two very legitimate arguments; I like ours better than theirs.

But obviously a blend of the two is important. But of course there are good members of the Church in both parties, and probably a lot of members of the Church that don’t like either one. But I’m happy to stand for the party I feel has the right answers for America and for keeping this country strong.

Joshua Lehr: How do you show respect for political opponents when so much verbal mud gets thrown around in politics? In this “battlefield” of words, how can we help people focus on solving problems instead of resolving to personal insults of other parties/ideas?

Romney: Politics can be a blood sport, as we call it in my state of Massachusetts. It’s unfortunate in politics that is so negative, although I have to tell you — negative ads are what work. People running campaigns and candidates recognize that. Now, not always, but this is an example: when I ran for governor in Massachusetts, we had some ads with Ann and our family that we thought were marvelous and the guy that put the ads together, our strategist, said “Look these are the best ads I’ve seen since Ronald Reagan and his ads.”

And so we ran them in Massachusetts and the more we ran them, the worse I did. Someone remarked, “People think you’re too good to be true; it doesn’t seem real.” And about this time, my opponent, Shannon O’Brien, who was the state treasurer, made the comment that she had been the “watchdog” of the state treasury. And so my campaign consultant put together an ad that had a doggy bed that said “State Treasurer” on it and it had a big Bassett Hound asleep in the bed. And it said “Shannon O’Brien said she’s the watchdog of the treasury.”

And in the background there were people taking bags of cash and putting it in a truck called Enron, which was a scandalized company at the time. And then it said, “Now she wants to be governor,” and at that point the dog lifted its head up and its ears flopped out. I was 10 points behind when that ad began to run. I won by five points two weeks later. Negative works. That’s part of the political process — you’re gonna have positive and negative, but for me, the most important criteria: Is that ad truthful?

And there has got to be a way to come down harder on things that are not truthful. Sometimes there were ads that came out of my campaign that created a wrong impression or were simply wrong, and I pulled them as soon as I learned about them. The opposition kept running them and running them, much to my detriment. I think there’s got to be a more severe penalty … for campaigns that run things are untruthful and keep hammering them and hammering them.

But if you can’t stand the heat, don’t get into the kitchen. And by the way, I respected people on both sides of the aisle. Ted Kennedy and I could not have been more different politically, but I respected the man, and we worked together. We became friends of sorts. I respected him even though we disagreed, and we battled each other, I mean I ran against him for U.S. Senate. But he was truthful in the attacks he made on me and I the same way and therefore we respected each other.

Kyle Litzenberger: What are three daily habits that contribute to your success?

Romney: Brushing my teeth, shaving and using deodorant would be three. I don’t mention hair — it stays the same, day and night. Certainly prayer — prayer provides a daily perspective of what’s important. It’s very interesting; no matter what kind of crisis is going on, you get down on your knees and what do you talk about first? Your family. And you think about the missionaries and the prophet and the people in the world that are suffering. It all comes into focus with prayer.

Second, I like to read before I go to bed, whether that’s something silly to take my mind off the day or something meaningful and powerful or scriptures, it depends on the day.

And perhaps the most important I have is making sure that when I’m home, I spend my time with Ann. We’re together all the time. We’re inseparable, unless we’re forced to be apart by some event. Getting her perspective is the most valuable part of my day.

Brooke Smith: What one thing would you like to see the average citizen do more of that would promote the protection of the individual rights?

Romney: The answer to this is not some grand and grandiose thing that you could do that would somehow change the course of American history. It’s instead, being involved by voting, by looking at different candidates and becoming aware and supporting the ones that speak on the issues you care about. Perhaps volunteering for their campaigns. Maybe you run for office yourself. I don’t think that’s necessarily the right course for everybody.

My dad said to me, “Don’t get involved in politics until your kids are raised.” He felt that being too involved politically could turn their head. So I waited until my career was much further along before we got involved as an elected official, but I was involved earlier on supporting candidates I thought would make a difference.

And as I said earlier, you want to help America? Raise a great family. Be faithful in your church. Work in your job, hard. Find things that make your enterprise more successful. Those things build our country. But in terms of protecting our religious liberty, which I happen to feel is under assault and will become under increasing assault, the best thing I think we can do is support individual candidates that speak to issues in the way we think they ought to be addressed.

Brent Webb: From decades of life experiences that brought you to this point, what counsel would you give to these students, by way of conclusion?

Romney: Well they’ve heard me drone on and on. You know, it’s funny, as you get older, how your perspective changes about what’s most important in your life. I know you’re at a stage in your life where you want to achieve success, as you would define it. And the key phrase that I’ve just used there is the phrase “success, as you define it.”

How do you define it? If you define success as “the promotion, the career level you reach, how much money you have, what kind of car you have, how big your house is…” you are bound to be disappointed. Because in life, there is a lot of chance — serendipity. How much money you make in life and where you might end up in terms of prestige and esteem of the world is partially in your control, but a lot of it is outside of your control.

Fortunately, God tells us that’s not how to define ourselves, and suggest we instead define ourselves by the relationship we have with God and His Son Jesus Christ, by the relationship with our family, by the ability to love others as God loves us and to care for others. And all those things, by the way, there is no chance in at all. It’s entirely up to us and God, who stands there with open hands.

If you define your success on that basis, you can all be remarkably successful. In fact, exalted, by virtue of the choice you make. Whether or not you’ll be successful is entirely up to you, if you choose to define success in an eternal way. Of course, it’s fine to work in the secular world and give your best and try to become financially successful.

I’m so thankful that I have the blessing of a great wife who has kept me on track. My sons call Ann the “Mitt guardrail” and the “Mitt shock absorber.” I need to have that. For me, the most important thing is making sure success, as we define it in our home, is based on those things we can control. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I love this Church, I’ve said that earlier. I love the people of the Church, I love the leaders of this Church. By the way, the associations you make here, the people you know, some will go on to do remarkable things and touch lives in amazing ways. It’s such an honor to be here. God bless you all. This is a great Church, a great place, a great University and a great nation.


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