An appeal to see Romney’s softer side

GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks the floor during the final day of the Republican … Continued


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks the floor during the final day of the Republican National Convention on Aug. 30, 2012.

On April 4, 1995, four of Mark and Sheryl Nixon’s six children were driving back from a youth group meeting outside Boston when the driver of the minivan they were in lost control of the vehicle, which side-swiped a utility pole, struck two trees and flipped over.

The two front seat passengers—Rob and Reed Nixon, both high-school athletes—were severely injured in the wreck, their necks shattered, their bodies paralyzed. The boys underwent numerous surgeries, and the family quickly incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses, not only for the treatments but also for a special van and an addition to their house to accommodate their sons’ conditions.

New to the Boston area and without the means to pay for their sons’ care, the Nixons had few places to turn for help.

Enter Mitt Romney. On Christmas Eve, the Romney family showed up at the Nixon home unannounced, bearing large boxes full of gifts, including a stereo system, VCR and a generous check for Rob, Reed and the entire Nixon family.

“I knew [Romney’s] schedule. I knew how busy he was. And their whole family came. He was actually teaching his boys, saying, ‘This is what we do. We do this as a family,’” Mark Nixon told Michael Kranish and Scott Helman in “The Real Romney.” “We’ve never forgotten it,” Sheryl added. “It stood out so much in our minds and helped us to want to be better parents, too.”

Romney later offered to pay for the boys’ college education and participated in a 5K road race and fundraiser for them. In subsequent years, he also made large financial gifts to a golf tournament in their honor.

The 2012 presidential campaign has thus far shed little light on Romney’s private life, a part of the candidate’s life that neither he nor the media seem willing to discuss. That’s unfortunate because it is in his personal life that one encounters the most compelling and commendable aspect of Romney’s character, his generosity.

Romney’s generosity toward the Nixons wasn’t a passing moment of magnanimity. It was part of a well-established pattern in Romney’s life of charity, often rooted in humility, that has helped define the candidate’s life.

Romney gave away more than 16 percent of his income in 2010 and 2011, and has consistently donated more than 10 percent of his income during his adult life. But Romney hasn’t only given money; he’s also donated his time.

After Romney’s friend and neighbor Joseph O’Donnell’s son Joey died of cystic fibrosis, Romney helped lead a community effort to build a playground in his honor at the Winn Brook School in Belmont, Mass. “There he was, with a hammer in his belt, the Mitt nobody sees,” O’Donnell told Kranish and Helman.

View Photo Gallery: Strong spiritual beliefs were on display during prayers, forums and speeches delivered by some of the nation’s top religious, political and social leaders.

Romney’s generosity continued. A year later, O’Donnell got a call from his wife. “You’re not going to believe this,” she said, “but Mitt Romney is down with a bunch of Boy Scouts and kids and they’re working on the park.”

O’Donnell said, “[Romney] did it for like the next five years, without ever calling to say ‘we’re doing this,’ without a reporter in tow, not looking for any credit.’”

When a colleague’s 14-year-old daughter ran away from home 16 years ago, Romney dropped everything. “I don’t care how long it takes. We’re going to find her,” Romney has been quoted as saying at the time. He shut down the entire office and sent 56 employees to New York City to help find her. Another 250 people from Wall Street firms joined in. About 200,000 brochures with the girl’s photo were distributed, a toll-free tip line was created and private investigators were hired. Eventually, the daughter was found safe and sound in another state. Some critics have questioned the significance of Romney’s role in reuniting the family; the incident has been featured in political ads.

During his 1994 bid to unseat Ted Kennedy for U.S. Senate, Romney appeared at a shelter for homeless veterans and discovered that the price of milk was killing the shelter’s budget. A few days later, Romney called the shelter and said that he wanted to cover part of its milk costs and was adamant that he didn’t want any publicity. So he paid half the shelter’s milk costs. “It happened not once, not twice, but for a long period of time,” the shelter’s food services director said.

Aides and friends say Romney is naturally hesitant to talk about himself at all, let alone his generosity. He considers it bragging.

“There’s so many stories of Mitt helping and reaching out and helping other people, and he’s very modest about it, and he doesn’t talk about it,” Ann Romney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News earlier this year, the New York Times reported.

“I’ve seen him visit with needy families in gang-ridden neighborhoods,” said former police chief Kenneth Hutchins, according an article posted on He’d “show up in his jeans to help a family move, counsel with individuals who were grieving. I’m also confident that he helped many financially, but he has never disclosed his generosity, nor would he.”

No doubt Romney is reluctant to talk about his good works in part because they are motivated by his Mormon faith, of which some Americans are suspicious. But while serving others is a hallmark of Mormonism, it is also valued by most other faiths and by most people generally. Generosity and charity are universal values.

There are significant doctrinal differences between Catholics, evangelicals and Mormons. But they share a commitment to the belief that we are all called to help those in need.

One can only admire Romney’s reluctance to highlight his own acts of charity. As Proverbs 27:2 states, “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth.” But by ignoring Romney’s generosity, the Romney campaign has walled off some of the candidate’s most impressive achievements and most attractive character traits.

As the campaign prepares to reintroduce Romney to the broader electorate for the final time, it needs to get personal. It is time for the candidate and his surrogates to tell the story of the Generous Mitt Romney.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer is chairman of Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee. Daniel Allott is a writer at American Values, a Washington, D.C., area public policy organization.

View Photo Gallery: Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney announced the selection of his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, in Norfolk on Aug. 11. Afterward, the two climbed aboard the campaign bus for a battleground-state tour.

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  • nurse7272

    Romney, the draft dodger, wants to start another war.

  • shipman

    We have heard the softer side, the trees in Mi are just the right size, I like to fire people, I’m also unemployed, my wife has two Cadillacs ,etc.

  • gramma b

    A relative lives in near San Diego, where the big fire destroyed a bunch of homes a few years ago. One of Romney’s sons lives in the general area. He and Mitt showed up with a work crew to spend hours cleaning debris out of people’s yards. The only reason I know about it is because one of the neighbors had a cell phone, took a picture, and it ended up on my relative’s facebook page.

  • fraudbust2011

    This is a good thread for the Romney-haters to avoid. They’re not going to win a fight on this one…

  • MarthaLou

    Oh really? Which war would that be? When rogue nations threaten the peace in the world, it is THEY who are starting wars. You libs have nothing left but hate to throw at Romney.

  • MarthaLou

    Wow, look at the hate.

  • sky3ler

    He is nice to his wife. He helps other Mormons and helps other rich people.

  • Birdmom78

    It’s too bad the TV networks chose to not show the personal stories about Mitt Romney during the campaign, but went to their own reporters who blabbed on and on about “their opinions” of which, I could care less!!! It’s not about THEM… it’s about educating the public so that we can make an intelligent choice in November. Personally, I like him, he does not brag, he DOES!!! That’s what America needs to help bring us out of the debt and doldrums we have suffered for way to long!

    Great job Mitt Romney, you have my VOTE!!!

  • Birdmom78

    sky… you know absolutely nothing about Mitt Romney. I’ll bet you didn’t even listen to the convention speakers, did you? NO, your minds already made up, you’ll vote for the empty chair again and get more empty promises!

  • Birdmom78

    shipman… and your point is???

    WHEN did it become a bad thing to be successful and enjoy that success, all the while SHARING IN IT TOO??? Mitt paid more taxes in one year than you probably made in a lifetime!

  • Birdmom78

    nurse… you are so full of LIES! You must be a NOBAMA supporter and want to have four more years of unfulfilled campaign promises? Well, NOT me.

    He was NOT a draft dodger, he went on a missionary trip and his DRAFT NUMBER was too high and never called! Get over yourself and your LIES!!! NOBAMA NOVEMBER!!!

  • Birdmom78

    Oh I just love the compassion of that nurse hater! Sure wouldn’t want her taking care of me in a hospital!

    You voting for that empty chair???

  • nurse7272

    Actually, Bird, I am an excellent nurse. And our country should go to war when it is necessary. Bush started an unnecessary war which was one of the causes of our horrific economic problems. Also, you righties always use the word “hate” when non-republicans state their opinions. Maybe you think we should just sit back and listen to you. Finally, one’s profession has nothing to do with political beliefs. You sound like the hater.

    Obama/Biden 2012 The best men for the job.

  • nurse7272

    One other thing Bird: Getting excited like you sound in your posts is
    not good for your health. You might wind up in the hospital.

  • nurse7272

    Bird: have you seen Mitt’s returns?

  • sky3ler

    Romney extended his mission much longer than usual and continued his religious deferment.

  • sky3ler

    You’d certainly expect someone with that much money and leisure time to help others. Most of the people I know help in their community in some way.
    I do think some of it’s a stretch though. I read of one heroic rescue where he picked up some people in his boat when their boat had a problem. The transferred from one boat to the other and there was no indication of risk to the Romneys,

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “He was NOT a draft dodger, he went on a missionary trip and his DRAFT NUMBER was too high and never called! Get over yourself and your LIES!!! NOBAMA NOVEMBER!!!”

    Correct me if I am wrong but didn’t Romney go on his missionary trip to France in something like 1968?

    If so than his “draft number” couldn’t have been too high since as far as I remember the first “draft lottery” was in December of 1969 for the draft year of 1970.

    As I have said, correct me if I got the year of his missionary trip to France wrong.

  • SpotLight

    I wonder why there are so few comments when an article highlights the life of a godly man. It may be because a truly godly man makes the rest of us feel uncomfortable. The majority of men and women that I have known are more at ease in the company of “earthy” people who’s speech and behavior are salted with a healthy dose of sin.

    The book of Romans in the New Testament offers some light;
    Romans 3 :10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one!
    11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
    12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
    13 “Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; “The poison of asps is under their lips”.

    Clearly, Mitt Romney is not included in this description of those with whom we are comfortable.but if I had to make a choice of who I would want to trust managing my financial affairs, I would commit them to Mitt Romney.

    I would also want him as a friend! In my 78 years of lifeI have had many acquaintances, but very few who I would call friends.

    Even if you are not completely comfortable with Mitt Romney as a bosom buddy , you would be well served if you trusted him at the helm of the American nation.

  • sky3ler

    I know plenty of people who donate and help others; he is not unique.

  • sky3ler

    While hundreds of thousands of American men were drafted to serve in Vietnam, Romney received a deferment because he was working as a missionary, which the government classified as a “minister of religion.” His mission lasted 30 months from July 1966 to February 1969, but Romney also was given almost three years of deferment before and after the mission because he was a student.

    In 1970, when Romney became eligible for the draft, he drew a high enough number in the annual lottery that he did not have to join the war effort.

  • D.M. Thraam

    I wonder how generous he’d be to atheists, pagans and well, anyone with religious or spiritual beliefs that are not based on the Judeochristian Bible?

  • D.M. Thraam

    If Obama was one eighth the socialist all the anti-liberals claim he is, I could cast my vote without reservations. As it is, I am beginning to wonder if the corporatist owner-class put him in office to demoralize liberals. We are still mired in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of keeping the DEFENSE department here guarding this country! We still have the safest drug there is – cannabis – putting so many people in prison we outrank China in locked up populace. And they complain this Obama is “leftist”. If only they were truly right for a change.

  • D.M. Thraam

    “oh look at the hate.”

    Is “disagreement” now synonymous with ‘hate’?

  • ConserveObserve

    But we’re not interested in “plenty of people” right now. A look into Romney’s character doesn’t diminish other folks contributions.

  • ConserveObserve

    He’s just a gonad-less leftist but a Marxist none the less…..

  • Birdmom78

    It’s too bad that the news networks chose to not show the personal side and speeches by those that know of Mitt Romney’ good deeds and helping others all the time!

    I was looking forward to hearing those talks, but they broke away and let their reporters rant on and interpret what they “thought” was being said! It’s a sad day when we cannot not get honest coverage for both side of the platform. I give the news coverage an “F” for complete coverage and a “B” for BIASED coverage! BOOOOOO… however, I’m voting for Romney/Ryan, I’ve seen enough of that hopeless change in the past 3 years and 8 months!!!

  • Birdmom78

    More generous that you dmthraam… I’ll bet he doesn’t ask (or care) what religion you are, he just acts when he sees someone in need!

    Do you???

  • ThomasBaum


    You wrote, “Romans 3 :10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one!
    11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.
    12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” ”


    “Clearly, Mitt Romney is not included in this description”.

    “None”, “no, not one”, “none who understands”, “none who seeks”, “all trurned aside”, “none who does good, no not one”, seems to me that if one were to take this literally, which seems to be the way you have presented it, that not only Mr. Romney but absolutely all of us are included, any comment?