Let me praise and remember a fine American, a man with frailities like all men but who stood tall through three great tests of our country, tall and brave even when oppossed by his own party, his religion, perhaps his family- let us remember George Romney and men like him, and in doing so, resolve to not let his memory be tarnished even by those who hold his name, his religion, his party.
George Romney was a man of honesty, courage and " a sincerity that burned straight into your soul when you shake his hand"-E.B. White. He was a significant figure emerging from the Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights, and Vietnam. His pledge not to run in 1964 which he honored despite strong urgings to run because he had given his word, changed the Republican party from its traditional roots to dependency on the Southern Dixie- crats and Western sage- brushers.
George Romney was born in Mexico to a father who had deserted the United states over polygamy and then returned to escape the Mexican Revolution. A few brought up the question of his eligibility to run for high office but such questions would be summarily dismissed by his opponents as immaterial to the issues at hand,
The family lived for a few months on Government assistance in El Paso and then began a journey from Utah, to Idaho, Los Angelos. George worked from an early age and his family scraped their way up several times- a potato farm, construction, real estate and were knocked down several times by the fall of farm prices, the Great Depression, the "Little Depression" of 1920-21.
George started and left college and worked his way up through the fledgling automobile agency. He never forgot the hard work, desperation, of those he had worked with in the fields and construction sites, he felt gratitude and responsibility for his blessings in climbing from poverty instead of entitlement.
His philosophy of government was "Competitive Cooperative Consumerism" and he had equal concern about Big Labor and Big Business. In World War II he represented the automobile industry and was significant in obtaining cooperative effort, sharing of parts, manufacturing ability and achieved a level of war production far exceeding that of other countries. He was equally strong in confronting war profiteers and the threat of wage strikes. He was responsible for significant gains by minorities in the work force and protecting those gains after the war.
Romnety became the head of the Rambler division and he emphasized reliable, inexpensive family cars for the returning veterans and their families. He was a supporter of the Marshall plan because it was right, although America, with the only intact heavy industry in the world, would thus need to stay competitive instead of complacent, a prospect George likelty relished. He was a strong supporter of the GI Bill.
George was elected Governor of Michigan. JFK stated "George Romney is the one man I'd be afraid to run against." He was an early and active supporter of civil rights, marching several times and, even though a Mormon, he stood openly for his believes even after Delbert L. Stapley wrote admonishing him "Civil Rights Act is viscious legislation... The Lord has placed the curse upon the Negro."
George passed the first income tax in Michigan but the economy comtinued to grow and he did not need to implement it although he stated that it would be necessary as the climate changed. George agreed not to run in 1964 and kept his word even though he polled much more popular that Barry Goldwater. he attempted to influence the party platform along with the traditional Northern Republicans. "White and Negroes, in my opinion, have got to learn to know each other. Barry Goldwater didn't have a background to understand this, to fathom them, and I couldn't get through to him."
He visited Vietnam in 1964 and was convinced that the war must be fought. In 1968 he ran in the Republican party and was opposed to the war stating that his former support came from what the generals had told him but which he now saw as deceptive, he uttered the phrase "I must have been brainwashed" and this line was mocked and overshadowed a life of accomplishment. The southern Strategy began, Nixon/ Agnew were elected . George Romney and George McGovern congratulated each other on running on their convictions.
George Romney served as the director of Housing and Urban Development, working bravely for safe, adequate housing for the urban, suburban and poor although often most strongly resisted by the administration he served and now this part of his legacy is threatened by a much smaller man who happens to be his son.
I am sure quotes can be found which tarnish his memory for some just as they can be found for Lincoln, either Roosevelt, Kennedy, King or any great American. my heroes were human "with a sincerity that burns through to your soul".