Anyone who has been around Mitt knows the kind of person he is: He is someone who loves life and enjoys having fun. These terrific attributes must be added to his intelligence and willingness to work as hard as necessary to accomplish whatever job is at hand.
In contrast to these qualities, Mitt has been criticized by some recently for his efforts in cutting the hair of a classmate at his high school. A writer at Forbes had planned a couple of weeks ago on reporting his experiences at the same school he attended two years behind Mitt, but world events required postponement. This piece by Mark Hendrickson, a contributor at Forbes who was a sophomore at Mitt’s high school when Mitt
was a senior, comes on the heels of Mitt’s barbering prank that has been widely reported. Although he did not know Mitt personally at the time, he did live in the same dorm and provides some interesting insights into the school, the kind of person that Mitt was as a teenager, and the atmosphere that no doubt played a role in MItt’s actions in the hair-cutting incident.
I have personal recollections of being on the receiving end of this same sort of silliness that makes up the various time-honored practices that go along with growing up. In my case it was the “red belly” that was administered to new guys after they showed up to football practice for the first time. A Google search just revealed that the practice is alive and well now, some 50 years later! Termed hazing by most people today, apparently some coaches actually encourage the practice as a way of building team cohesion.
Given what I write, I obviously don’t share in the hand-wringing that has accompanied revelations of Mitt’s youthful manifestations of school spirit. Indeed, the outrage is just one more example of the sissification in today’s society that is also accompanied by way too many court battles.
All that aside, the Forbes article is well worth the read for the counter-balance it provides to some of the coverage the hair-cutting incident has received. For example, Hendrickson writes:
Cranbrook in the ‘60s had a culture that probably would be considered “homophobic” today, but was the norm then. I don’t know anybody there who actually hated or wanted to hurt homosexuals, but you sure didn’t want to be called one. We were a bunch of adolescent boys with macho complexes, trying to live up to what we thought “real men” should be like. In the ‘60s, that meant being masculine and heterosexual.
This description fits to a tee the public schools I attended in the ’60s in Montgomery, Alabama, where I grew up. The author continues:
Did the school administration let Mitt get away with stuff because his dad was governor? Possibly, although seniors in general were a privileged class. As long as they didn’t set the dorm on fire, the adults pretty much left them alone to do their thing. I think Mitt had a little imp and some showboat in him, and so he probably wanted to see how far he could push the envelope.
My estimation based on personal experience a couple of years afterwards is that this pretty much reflects what one would expect of Mitt in his teenage years. By the time I met him, he was focused on working hard in doing his duty, but his joy for living was a huge part of who he was. Thus,my favorite aspect of this article is found in the telling summary of Mitt’s personality and from whence it had its source:
The one quality about him that stood out more than the others was his abundant joy. He was one of the happiest guys I’ve ever seen, although he had his serious side, too. His love for life was palpable.
I’d surmise that Mitt’s joy stemmed from his happy family life. When the demagogues sneer that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, they are right, but not in the way they mean. Mitt’s good fortune—the one that really made a difference in his life—wasn’t his father’s money, but that his parents imparted to him great emotional wealth. He had to have a lot of emotional security and self-knowledge to be able to enter into such a successful, enduring marriage at such a young age, and I think that was George and Lenore Romney’s truly valuable bequest to him.
After writing about Mitt’s performance in a track meet, which was less than glorious in terms of athletic achievement but constituted a great example of the sort of character and fortitude that Mitt exhibits in every aspect of his live, the writer concludes:
I haven’t had the privilege of knowing Mitt Romney, the adult, other than that one brief meeting a decade ago. Others will have to tell us about his adult conduct. All I can tell you is that I saw a lot of potential for a life of positive accomplishments in that lanky teen in Stevens Hall. If he becomes the 45th president of the United States, you can count on him giving his all in service to his country.
My personal experience from many years ago and my observations of Mitt’s career since are such that I can only wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion!