Furious George: The Rhetorical Might That Mitt Is Missing

In this speech, Romney claimed that the nation was in only the "early stages" of the American Revolution: "We have been too proud of our partially established political freedom. Political freedom for all was not established except as a concept and a goal when our country was founded. Indeed, the idea that the country should be governed by those who owned it was the basis of voter qualification in early elections. It took decades to broaden the right of political consent to include males without property. It took until 1920 to establish voting rights for women. Millions of American citizens are still denied their God-given political rights because of race."

He declared the biggest problem in the United States was too much concentration of power -- in government, in unions and in corporations alike.

"By the labor people I'm considered anti-union; by the big corporations I'm considered anti-big business. That's because any time you raise the question of power in this country, the immediate answer they give to knock you down is that 'you're against bigness and we've got to have bigness because only through bigness can you get efficiency and get all these goods.' That's the stock answer and that seems to satisfy everybody," he said.

"The hard facts are that any power, if it is excessive, is dangerous because somebody is going to abuse that power, sooner or later...."

Romney called for the abolition of cross-industry coalitions of unions and he called for the breakups of some big companies, to reach some minimum number of companies required for each industry to be truly competitive.

"It is all very well to speak smugly of the virtues of competition and assume that all you have to do is applaud it and be in favor of it," he told the business executives at the Economic Club of Chicago. "If we believe in competition, we must give it more than lip-service, and actively seek to keep it vigorous and fight the forces that restrain it."

Romney harped in 1959 -- and for the rest of his life -- on the need to expand what he called "voluntary cooperation," or independent citizens gathering to solve problems. "I believe that participation in politics by unions and corporations as organizations is morally, politically and economically wrong," Romney said. "We need to create a means by which people can express their concerns about these problems as citizens and consumers ...."

Romney concluded his last speech of 1959 by predicting that the "sixties will be a decade of basic decision" and challenging his listeners to be better human beings: "In the world, we need to decide just how deeply we believe in human brotherhood, and just how much of our comfort and time we are willing to give up in its behalf to help others help themselves, and how much energy and courage we want to put into that effort. I believe America is assigned the great world mission in brotherhood and that its pursuit can gain for us as a people inexpressibly more happiness than the materialism that is threatening to possess our hearts."

Again: It's hard to imagine Mitt making such an appeal.

Of course the father and son, no matter how close and how mutually admiring, had divergent upbringings. The comparatively hardscrabble, farm-raised, self-made father and the prep-schooled auto-industry scion were bound to be two different men. And maybe George was destined to be the more vivid.

But what is a safety-minded son to do?

"Every time I go to a debate, I write my dad's name at the top of the piece of paper on the stand," he said recently, "just reminding myself of his great character, his integrity, the vision he had for America."

Maybe he should take more than George Romney's name to the stage. Maybe he should take a whole speech.

Presented by

David Murray is the editor of Vital Speeches of the Day. He also writes regularly at Writing Boots and Contentology.

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