Ann Romney In a revealing talk with Editor in Chief Rosemary Ellis, the wife of the Republican nominee talks about her struggle with MS, the cause closest to her heart ‐ and why she believes her husband will win.
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING: Let's start at the very beginning of your story with Mitt. What first made you fall in love with him?
ANN ROMNEY: We were so young; we started dating in March of his senior year of high school. He was just so engaging, fun-loving, and goofy. Every thought was about him; every moment was about him. I couldn't imagine living without him.
GH: OK, but I felt the same way about my boyfriend when I was in high school...whom I should not have married and did not marry!
AR: I guess it went from puppy love to something deeper over time. It was a summer of love. He worked at the Chrysler Corporation as a security guard during the night shift, and then he spent the day with me - so he basically didn't sleep. (Laughs)
GH: Don't tell Chrysler that! Let's fast-forward to something much more profound. Why do you think your husband is the best person to be President?
AR: I'd say because of his life experience, starting with the example [his father] George Romney set of being successful in his family and business and then serving in a political sphere. [He showed] what a difference being involved in politics makes. The formula from his perspective was, you never get involved in politics unless you're financially secure and your children are raised. So when our children were older and Mitt had made a bit of money, there was his father's example that you find ways to serve and give back.
That's also what drew us to the Olympics. Mitt gave up everything, walked away from a very lucrative position [to lead the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympics]. It was just a little square inch of light that you walk into saying, "I think this is the right thing to do." You get that confidence from intuition and prayer...all of those things where no one's going to give you a blueprint of how life is going to turn out.
GH: Since you mention prayer, let me ask you: What is the prayer you say when you're faced with something like that? A big possibility, whether it's running for President or something that involves your children?
AR: What I've learned is that you can never ask God to tell you what the end is. You can ask, "Is this a good thing to do?" But not, "How is this going to turn out?" That answer you will never get. But the response I had from prayer was that this was absolutely the right thing to do. The thing that was amazing is that I had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And for me to be 100% sold on his running for President - I look back and go, Wow, I can't believe I did that. Because that was the scariest time in my life, and to leave everything that was familiar - that confidence came from prayer.
GH: What do you think your husband's best quality is?
AR: Good judgment.
GH: And what habit of his do you wish you could change?
AR: Let's see. He's so good to me...I'm really stumped on that one. Isn't that amazing?
GH: That is amazing.
AR: I guess the thing I'd say is he had to learn to control his temper a bit when the children were young. In other situations, he's quick to flare, and I've seen him learn to control that, too. Most people have a very hard time changing their behavior, and I've been impressed that he's actually seen [his temper] as a weakness and worked on it.
GH: For you, what is the secret to a happy marriage?
AR: A sense of humor, because marriage throws you curveballs. It is not easy. You also need a common purpose - for us, it was raising really good sons - and I had huge support from my husband, recognizing that my work was more important than his work during those years. That was extraordinary, to think that my husband valued me so much. I knew that 90% of his heart was with us and 10% of his heart was with his job. But nonetheless, he did his job exceptionally well. He did everything well.
GH: What is the biggest misconception in the press about your husband?
AR: He is so warm and approachable, very spontaneous and funny in his private life - which is not what you see in his public life.
GH: How do you cope with the criticism, which is inevitable in a Presidential campaign?
AR: You have to recognize that deep within your soul, you know who you are - and let [the criticism] go right by you. If you're reacting to it, you're letting it get to you.
GH: What are the steps your husband would take to improve the economy?
AR: Just his election itself is going to instantly turn up the gas and get people more optimistic, but he has five things that are simple for people to understand: One is to get rid of regulation; one is to start using our natural resources; one is to turn to human capital, which is education, and get that working again; and...oh, I'm not sure on the last two! (Laughs)
GH: Well, three is a very good start. A couple of years ago, we created the Green Good Housekeeping Seal as a way of helping consumers figure out what products are truly green versus what are just greenwashing claims. Are green issues something you think about?
AR: Everyone wants clean air and clean water. I mean, of course we all do. And then if you go to a country like China -
GH: Where there is no regulation...
AR: Where there is no regulation, and you see what's wrong there and how people are dying younger there. And the pollution and the air quality is just abysmal, and people are having to live in that. You understand how important it is, but you also have to recognize that we have to balance those things.
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Ann Romney with Rosemary EllisGH: Can you tell me, what campaign issue is closest to your heart?
AR: I've been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people's lives if they don't get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers' unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.
GH: In preparing for this interview, we collected questions from readers. One question that came up again and again was around your financial success. There's been a lot of talk about your husband's interest income and his earning $68,000 a day for speeches - which is more than most Americans make in a year. How, with your family's wealth, can you understand the struggles of regular folks?
AR: I acknowledge that we are very lucky and our struggles are not financial, but that does not mean we have not struggled. You don't have to struggle in the exact way of every person on this earth to understand and have sympathy for those going through difficult times. And, for me, I've gone through very serious health issues. Once your health is taken away, you have nothing. And so I would love people to know that we do care and that we do understand what it means to struggle financially. And for Mitt, to have had success and to say, "I understand how jobs are created" - I really believe that the country will be so much better off if he's President.
GH: And have you picked yet what your issue will be? What do you feel most passionate about?
AR: It would be what I've been involved with my entire adult life, which is working with at-risk youth and recognizing that every child is a child of God. And that some of those children are being left behind, and that is a heartbreak and a huge, huge loss to this country.
GH: On a more personal note, when you were first diagnosed with MS, to whom did you turn for support?
AR: I think why I didn't do very well when I was first diagnosed was that I only turned inward. I went to a really scary, dark place for a long time. I was a woman who could handle life pretty well, and I was very accomplished in a lot of things. And all of a sudden, bam, everything's taken away from you. You say, "I'm no good to anybody. I can't even take care of myself." But then I turned outside of myself, thanks to my husband, my faith, and - oddly enough - my horses.
GH: So tell me about your horses.
AR: It's funny [about horses].... You have to find something that'll pull you away from those scary places. And it was my husband telling me, "I don't care if you're in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. I don't care whether you make dinner; I can eat cold cereal and toast. As long as we're together, as long as you're here, we're going to be OK." I'm sorry. (Tearing up)
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GH: It's OK - I'm crying right here with you. We're both messing up our makeup.
AR: You know, I think what had happened was my body finally said, "You haven't been taking care of yourself, and I'm going to make you so sick that you aren't going to be able to move." Medicine was not really helping all that much, but my husband did, and knowing that I could go get on my horse pulled me out of bed. It got me a moment of joy in my life where I didn't think about being sick for a while.
GH: Who are your heroes? Your role models? Don't say your husband, even if it's true. (Laughing)
AR: I would say Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa...and Hillary Clinton. She has been through so much; she just kept going. Now she's doing a great job as Secretary of State. I also admire Robin Roberts right now. You see the resilience of the human spirit in these women, and I love it.
GH: How do you make sure you get a little "me time" during all the campaigning?
AR: In the morning, I listen to Scripture while I'm exercising. It gives me great peace to be able to listen to the words of Christ and to know that's where my soul is and what feeds me. That's where I have that meditation and reverence every day.
GH: That makes me think of a question I'm curious to ask. There was an editorial recently by a devout Mormon, and he said, "I'm a Mormon, not a Christian." Do you consider yourself a Christian?
AR: Oh, yeah; I can't believe he would say that. Our whole religion is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so maybe he was trying to identify a course of Christianity. I don't know.
GH: One last question: As you know, Good Housekeeping is famous for the Good Housekeeping Seal. Tell me a moment in your life when you felt like you'd earned the Good Housekeeping Seal.
AR: Seeing my last son get married - the fifth son - was, like, wow. It was a moment of pause and gratitude. It felt like I got my gold star! (Laughing)
GH: Is there anything else that you want to tell our readers?
AR: I guess I'll make a statement about women. This is why I love campaigning right now. What I see when I'm out there is the goodness of America and the goodness of strong women. They're being good moms; they're being good citizens; they're being good friends. I see it in their faces and their eyes when I'm out there, and I just love it. And that's what gives me hope that America is just going to turn a corner. We're going to do OK, because I see the faces of the women out there, and they're so strong.
GH: Thanks so much, and thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
What cause is most important to you? Let us know in the comments!
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