"If our priority is jobs," Romney said -- emphasizing "and that's my priority" -- "that's something I'd change, and I'd replace it with something that provides people with something they need in health care, which is lower cost, good quality, capacity to deal with people who have pre-existing conditions ... and I'll also work to reform and save Medicare and Social Security."
Romney also issued a challenge to embrace school choice as a civil-rights issue. One of the more indefensible positions of the current president has been his stubborn refusal to be an advocate for some of the poorest children in Washington, D.C., plagued by dismal, dangerous schools. Romney quoted Frederick Douglass as he talked about the intolerable inequality that persists in educational opportunity: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." That's a statement for our times, a soul-reviving one for a country and culture.
It was one of a few quotes: "Every good cause on this earth," Romney said, "relies in the end on a plan bigger than ours. 'Without dependence on God,' as Dr. King said, 'our efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night.' Unless his spirit pervades our lives, we find only what G.K. Chesterton called 'cures that don't cure, blessings that don't bless, and solutions that don't solve.'" There's something of the conservative proposition for this election year: that government isn't our only hope or our sole agent of transformational change.
Romney may just get to work on rebuilding something we've always valued: freedom. Freedom to believe as we choose, even outside our places of worship. To dream of upward mobility. To believe in creativity and American Exceptionalism at a time when our government is insisting that women's fertility is a disease.
Mitt Romney doesn't need a vice-presidential gimmick. He just needs to talk. That NAACP speech was a model and a turning point. "Take a look," he said at his unleashing. If he keeps talking like that, whole new audiences might do just that.