Friends of Romney convey Mitt’s love, concern
But perhaps the most impressive address came from an elderly couple who had trouble reading the teleprompter and stumbled a little over their words.
Ted and Pat Oparowski, originally of Medford, Mass., talked about their young son David, diagnosed at age 14 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Mitt Romney, then a leader in their church, befriended David as he struggled with his illness, buying the boy a box of fireworks at one point to cheer him up, and later, on David’s request, helping him write a will so he could give his prized rifle, skateboard, and fishing gear to his friends.
“You cannot measure a man’s character based on words he utters before adoring crowds during happy times. The true measure of a man is revealed in his actions during times of trouble,” Ted Oparowski said. “The quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters – that is the time to make an assessment.”
Romney stayed with the family even at David’s death, Pat Oparowski added, delivering the eulogy at the boy’s funeral.
“We will be ever grateful to Mitt for his love and concern,” she said.
Though the couple’s emotional talk brought tears to the eyes of many, it wasn’t the only insight of the evening into a man who friend’s called deeply caring and generous with time and resources.
Pam Finlayson, who also was a member of Romney’s church, talked about how Romney had come to the hospital to visit her after her daughter Kate was born very prematurely.
“I will never forget that when he looked down tenderly at my daughter, his eyes filled with tears, and he reached out gently and stroked her tiny back,” she said. “I could tell immediately that he didn’t just see a tangle of plastic and tubes; he saw our beautiful little girl, and he was clearly overcome with compassion for her.”
When Kate passed away 26 years later from a congenital condition, Mitt and Ann Romney stopped their work on the campaign trail to reach out to Finlayson, she remembered.
“It is with great excitement and a renewed hope, to know that our country will be blessed as it is led by a man who is not only so accomplished and capable, but who has devoted his entire life quietly serving others,” she said.
In every phase of his life, a stream of speakers said, Romney had embodied compassion, hard work, and principle.
The crowd thrilled when 15 Olympians, including Mike Eruzione, hockey player of “miracle on ice” fame, figure skater Scott Hamilton, and speed skater Dan Jansen took the stage to talk about how Romney had saved the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics from the brink of financial disaster.
“Mitt is a brilliant leader who is committed to the highest ideals, and he is a wonderful and caring family man,” Eruzione said. “America desperately needs Mitt Romney’s leadership today. Please join me in making him the next president of the United States.”
Business leaders, including Staples founder Tom Stemberg, talked about Romney’s record of success and character while in leadership at Bain Capital, while Massachusetts political leaders including Romney’s former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey discussed his work to help the state lead the nation in education.
This extended tribute concluded with a video showing the Romney family as Mitt and Ann raised five boys, showing scenes of the Republican nominee stopping work to play with his sons, and featuring Ann telling of how Mitt chose her to carry the Olympic torch in Salt Lake City, saying that she was his hero.
Romney’s job this week was to show a more personable and genuine side of himself to the American people. By the time he took the stage at the end of the night Thursday, his work was all but done.