Surreal is the first word that comes to mind to describe the experience of encountering Mitt Romney’s name in the media over the years, now of course more than ever. We first met when we went to France during the summer of 1966 in the same group of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The first example came in March of 1969, after having returned from France the previous December and while detailing my mother’s car in her front yard in Montgomery, Alabama.
I had pulled the Chevy Nova onto the grass in front of her house so I could connect the vacuum to the power outlet on the front porch. Listening to the radio while washing and cleaning the car, the news came on to interrupt the music that had been playing. One of the items on the news happened to be the marriage of Mitt Romney to Ann Davies. I had never met Ann, but all of us who had known Mitt in France knew how much he loved her, so this was of course great news!
The next time came in 1991, as I was reading something like BusinessWeek. There I learned that Mitt had left Bain Capital to return to Bain Consulting, the company he had left in 1984 to start Bain Capital. The consulting company was in dire straits to the point that Bill Bain had asked Mitt to return to help get the company back on its feet.
About that same time I was in France working at the American Embassy to help organize the visits of DoD visitors at the Paris Air Show. While there, I had dinner with a friend, a recent graduate from one of the top business schools in France and who worked for Bain Consulting in Paris. He spoke to me of visits that Mitt had made from the US, which had pretty much bowled over the French staff at the offices there in Paris. Indeed their reaction was nothing short of being total amazement as they observed the arrival and work ethic of “le grand patron” (“the big boss”) from the States. Mitt would arrive from Boston early in the morning at the Charles deGaulle Airport, rent his own car, drive himself, and then maybe catch a few winks on the sofa in someone’s office. Generally, however, he would go on to work pretty much the whole day.
Most amazing to the French staff, however, was his complete lack of pretense, his frugality, as well as his down to earth approach to getting the job done. And as they say, the rest is history: Mitt turned Bain Consulting around and helped it become once again one of the top two or three strategic management consulting firms in the world.
Fast forward a few years to the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games, a story that warrants being told and retold, not only because of the significance to the country, but also due to the timing of that success and the direct contributions that Mitt Romney made to that effort. Here is the first of a couple of stories we have received from readers who remember those days very well, illustrating the same sort of success he had achieved at Bain. The first is from Sheri Lyn Sohm, the recipient of a “Teacher of the Year” award and volunteer for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games:
I was one of the thousands of professionals tapped to work for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Following a serious scandal, local and international support was extremely low; most sponsors had pulled out, and SLOC was in shambles. The all too pervasive mood was that it would be impossible to pull off the Winter Games under such circumstances.
Terrified organizers called on the only man who they felt could fix the mess, Mitt Romney. He left his lucrative job at Bain Capital to literally jump on board a sinking ship. Confidant and optimistic, Mitt took control. He cleaned house, unscrambled messy bookkeeping, and used his genius to create a business plan that he was convinced would guarantee success. He hired “the best and brightest” as department heads, demanding that they slice budgets that were at that point non-existent. Mitt personally called sponsors, donors, international leaders, and government officials, winning them over, first with confidence, humor, and reputation. Then came his soaring vision of what he assured them would be the most successful Olympic Games ever. He closed the deal with the strikingly disciplined plan that he and his team had devised.
Under Mitt Romney’s heroic leadership SLOC became a finely tuned machine. As we were climbing out of the dark hole Mitt had inherited, disaster struck! The entire nation was devastated by 9/11, and this just five months before the Opening Ceremonies!
Calls poured in from around the world suggesting that the Games be canceled. Mitt went into overdrive: A mulit-story American flag wrapped the skyscraping office building, letting terrorists know in no uncertain terms that America and the world would not give in to threats. Mitt’s team was tasked with creating a security system that became a model for the world. Every possible scenario had a plan and back-up plan, for failure was not an option.
Then. on an icy cold February evening in 2002, the world watched the Opening Ceremonies of the “impossible” 2002 Winter Olympic Games. They watched in silence as the tattered flag, that had flown over the Twin Towers, was carried across the field by heroes selected for the honor. They watched as thousands of young athletes from the nations of the world paraded around the stadium in gestures of peace and unbridled joy. They watched as international leaders sat in the stadium with perfect confidence for their personal safety.
And there was Mitt, humble as ever, giving the honor to his team, taking no salary (which by the way, is what he also did as governor), having setup the only Winter Olympic Games to not just break even, but to leave the host city with millions of dollars for on-going support of the world class sport venues.
As we look for a candidate for president, we need to recognize that Mitt Romney doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk of honor, service and excellence. He is a doer, a doer who has already made the world a better place, and one wants to do it again. Any country would give their “eye-teeth” for this kind of leader, shouldn’t we?
Sheri is exactly right! He did it for Bain, for the Olympics, and for Massachusetts. Who better to fix what is wrong in Washington than Mitt?!?