One of the highlights of the convention last night were the copious personal testimonies about Mitt Romney's record as a business man and quiet humanitarian. He's often painted as an out-of-touch rich guy who stomps on the poor and middle class for his own gain, but it became clear through these stories that he's anything but. Sure, he's not the world's most electrifying public speaker, but he's a good man. If substance trumps style, then Mitt should be our guy.
The most affecting anecdote of the night came from this couple, the Oparowskis, whose then-14-year-old son David Mitt Romney befriended thirty years ago, while David was in the hospital, dying of Hodgkin's Disease. Watch, and try not to cry:
(h/t to Ed Morrissey for the video)
Byron York called this "the most extraordinary story of the convention" in a column today:
In particular, the program featured Ted and Pat Oparowski, a couple who lived in Medford, Massachusetts in the 1970s. They knew Romney from church, and when their 14 year-old son David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1979, Romney visited the boy regularly. “They developed a loving friendship,” Pat Oparowski said, recounting the many times Romney came to see her and her son.
David Oparowski’s cancer was terminal. During one visit, Mrs. Oparowski recalled, “David, knowing Mitt had gone to law school at Harvard, asked Mitt if he would help him write a will. He had some prize possessions that he wanted to make sure were given to his closest friends and family. The next time Mitt went to the hospital, he was equipped with his yellow legal pad and pen. Together, they made David’s will. That is a task that no child should ever have to do. But it gave David peace of mind. So after David’s death, we were able to give his skateboard, his model rockets, and his fishing gear to his best friends. He also made it clear that his brother Peter should get his Ruger .22 rifle. How many men do you know who would take the time out of their busy lives to visit a terminally ill 14 year old and help him settle his affairs?”
“David also helped us plan his funeral,” Pat Oparowski continued. “He wanted to be buried in his Boy Scout uniform. He wanted Mitt to pronounce his eulogy, and Mitt was there to honor that request. We will be ever grateful to Mitt for his love and concern.”
It was an extraordinary story, seldom mentioned in the press, and it left many in the hall in tears. “You cannot measure a man’s character based on the words he utters before adoring crowds during times that are happy,” said Ted Oparowski. “The true measure of a man is revealed in his actions during times of trouble — the quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters.”
Six months ago, the best attitude the public could've hoped to have toward Romney was as a competent, if distant, businessman, capable of turning our economy around. Likability was one of those intangibles most conservatives didn't anticipate him achieving. But last night demonstrated that Romney's reputation as a cold, calculating CEO exists primarily because (unlike another President of the United State I know...) he pretty much never talks himself up. In all the GOP primaries those months ago, in interviews, in speeches, he's never told this story. Yet who -- Republican, Democrat, Independent, whatever -- can listen to this couple's experience with Mitt and, in good conscience, deny that he's a genuinely good man?
One of the gaps Romney needs to close is this: 53% of voters believe that Obama cares more about their predicaments, while only 39% choose Romney. The Oparowskis' story -- and those of everyone who spoke last night -- reveals that Romney is a man of character. He's not the type to sit in his tower, and lecture people about how they should do what is "right," or what he wants. He rolls up his sleeves, he interacts with those in need, he solves problems, and -- most intriguingly -- has a record of providing comfort and reassurance. If this and those other stories had been told sooner (and more often), I'd imagine Romney's likability and compassion numbers would be on more equal footing with Obama's.