"This Is The Place"

There seems to be a consensus that Mitt Romney can’t do himself any good, and could do himself considerable harm, by giving his “JFK” speech tomorrow. I suspect that consensus is right, but as an experiment, I decided to write his speech for him, and see if I could come up with something that would do him at least a little good.

I did not make any attempt to sound like Mitt Romney. Sounding like Mitt Romney probably does not do him any good, and could do him considerable harm, so I’ve taken the liberty of giving him a complete personality transplant while maintaining his relative political positioning when thinking about the speech. I’ve also taken the liberty of making up anything I needed to make the point I’m looking to make, including autobiographical anecdotae and so forth. This, I believe, is consistent with the real Mitt Romney’s approach, to policy questions if not to autobiographical ones.

Herewith, the speech.

“This is the place.”

That’s what Brigham Young said when he came to the valley of the Great Salt Lake for the first time. I don’t know if he heard him say it, but my grandfather’s grandfather was there, so he might have. The man who had led his people through the wilderness had come to the spot where he, and they, would build their permanent homes.

It’s a great American story. A group of hardy pioneers, setting off westward to find a place where they could live according to their consciences and reap the fruit of their own labor. But it’s a unique story, too, because my ancestors weren’t leaving Europe to make their new life. They were leaving America.

Forty nine years – seven weeks of years – after Brigham Young spoke those words, when the Utah territory became the state of Utah, my grandparents’ generation became fully party of the United States of America again. And that’s another great American story: how a group of people on the margins of society were welcomed back into the bosom of the land that gave them birth.

I have been asked, more times than I can count, by more people than I can remember, as I’ve crossed and re-crossed this great country on my campaign, what do I believe? Well, there are a lot of ways I could answer that. I could talk about the power of prayer, to heal broken bodies and broken marriages. I could talk about my wife of thirty-seven years, and the love and devotion we share. And those answers would be absolutely true, and would tell you a lot about me. But there’s a more important answer, just as true, that matters much more to this campaign.

I believe in America.

I believe in a land of opportunity, where the children of refugees and sharecroppers have the same rights and the same chances as the children of wealth and privilege, to succeed on their own merits and keep the rewards of their own hard work.

I believe in the land of the free and the home of the brave, where no man, woman or child lives in fear of crime or violence, and both our friends and our enemies abroad know the firmness of our resolve.

I believe in America because I’ve seen what America can do. You know a tree by its fruits, and the fruits of this land are goodly beyond compare.

And I believe in America because that’s what I was taught to believe, by my father and mother, by my community, and by my church.

I am, as I’m sure you know, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You know, that’s a mouthful of a name, and I’m not surprised we’re more commonly known as Mormons. I’m also not surprised non-members don’t call us what we call ourselves: saints. It rubbed me the wrong way when I was a kid. I asked my father, why do we speak that way about ourselves? It doesn’t sound exactly humble. And my father said: if it bothers you, son, maybe that’s because you aren’t feeling humble enough to deserve that name. But that’s what the Pilgrims of Massachusetts called themselves when they first came here, fleeing persecution, to build their shining city on a hill. So there you go: another American story.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as was my father before him, and his father before him, and so on for five generations. I was raised in the traditions of my faith, and I cleave to them. I don’t know where or who I would be today without them.

But I am not running for President today as a representative of my faith, any more than I am running as a representative of my race or my sex. I am running for President to represent the people of the United States of America – all the people, one nation, under God, indivisible.

John F. Kennedy, when he was running for President in 1960, felt the need to give a speech proclaiming the independence of his conscience – assuring Americans that he would not be taking “orders” from the Vatican. I honestly doubt that he truly needed to make that speech then. I certainly don’t feel any need to make that speech now. Because I believe in America, and believing in America means that this is a country where every individual is judged by the content of their character.

I am who I am because of the family I was raised in, because of the community I was raised in, and because of the faith I was raised in. But I am who I am. I believe I am the right man to lead America, to face the challenges of foreign terrorism and a changing economy, to make sure that every life in America is valued, and every child has the opportunity to succeed. That is the question before the American people, and I have no fears in trusting the wisdom of the American people to answer it.

When Senator Joe Lieberman was nominated for the Vice Presidency on the Democratic ticket in 2000, his reaction was, “is this a great country, or what?” My sentiments exactly.

I want to close with an anecdote about the great American who is my host today, and who did me the honor of that warm introduction. President George Bush, as I’m sure you know, was widely known for the little notes he would write to people – notes of thanks, notes of encouragement, notes of condolence; notes to the noteworthy and notes to the little-noted. He was such a prodigious letter-writer that, in retirement, he put together a book of these letters, and let me tell you, short of befriending the man himself there is no better way to get to know him, know his character, than to read that book.

So, anyhow, in 1994 I challenged Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat in Massachusetts, and as you all know after fighting hard I lost that race. Nobody had given me much of a chance going in, but even when you know the odds are against you, losing is hard. So in the days after the election, I got two letters of encouragement that I have cherished ever since. One was from a friend, a bishop in my church whom I’ve known nearly all my life. And the other was from President Bush. And I have to say, if you read the two letters one after the other, you would be hard-pressed to know who had written which. Both warm, personal messages said: don’t give up. Keep on trying. I know you’ve got it in you to make a difference. You couldn’t tell which one was from the President of the United States, they were both so down-to-earth. And you couldn’t tell which one was from a bishop in the Mormon Church.

So I want to thank you, Mr. President, for your graciousness in hosting and introducing me today, and for all the encouragement you’ve given me and my family over the years. And I want to wish you and your family all the blessings that heaven can bestow, amen.