Columns / Discourse / May 16, 2012

Voice of Reason: Some Romney that I used to know

Late spring, with its graduations and deluges of prom pictures, brings back memories of high school for many of us. High school being what it is, some of us are no doubt looking back with nostalgia, while others of us would probably just as soon forget it ever happened.

One person who was unable to forget those days was a man named John Lauber, a student who attended the prestigious Cranbrook School, a boy’s prep school in Michigan, and was tormented by the other students for his unusual ways and presumed homosexuality.

As reported by the Washington Post, in the worst incident, a group of boys ambushed him one day, held him down and forcibly cut his hair. This would be a sad but otherwise unremarkable incident, except that this incident happened nearly fifty years ago and this group of boys was led by a young man by the name of Mitt Romney.

Though you would have to have a heart of stone to not feel something for what Mr. Lauber went through, it still should not make any difference when you step into that voting booth in November.

Why not? Doesn’t this show that Mitt Romney has always been a sadist who enjoys wielding power over the less fortunate? Well, no. It shows nothing more than that he was a jerk as a teenager. There are undoubtedly some who believe that you can draw some sort of line from his bullying to his current policies, but I would hope most of us are above basing our votes on amateur psychoanalysis.

None of us on this campus is the same person we were in high school, and that was only a few years ago for most of us. It has been nearly 50 years since the incident at Cranbrook. At some point, we have to accept that people grow up and change. The Mitt Romney that is running today is in all likelihood a very different person than he was in the 1960s, just as Barack Obama today is a very different person than he was back in high school.

President Bill Clinton admitted to drug use back when he was younger. Does that mean that he went through office baked? Of course not. He did stupid things when he was young and moved on to become a different person as an adult who made an entirely unrelated set of mistakes. Mitt Romney might very well prove to be a terrible president, but if so, it will not be because he cut off John Lauber’s hair when he was 16.

This incident is only a part of who Mitt Romney was then and an even smaller part of who he is now. Even with his teenage cruelty, he was still an observant Mormon who didn’t drink or smoke and spent over two years as a missionary in France while he was young. As far as political candidates go, he has one of the most straitlaced backgrounds imaginable. It would be interesting to see how many of his critics can point to a similarly upstanding youth. Edmund White, a Cranbrook grad who did not know Romney, wrote quite observantly, “Romney may have felt popular and in the right for the first time.” He was the only Mormon at the school, and by all accounts not especially good at sports or anything else that would make him cool.

It seems that he then resorted to bullying as an attempt to fit in. Condemn him, but let he who has no sin cast the first stone. If there is anyone reading this who never did anything stupid or mean in an attempt to fit in while growing up, they are more than welcome to write in.

I am not saying what Romney did was okay. It was not. What I am saying is that it has very little to do with how good a president Mitt Romney would be.

We’re not electing a prom king. We’re electing a president. This election is about deciding which of two grown men would be the better leader of this country in 2012. Deciding it based on the actions of teenagers in 1965 would be the truly immature act.

Matt Barry
Matt Barry is a senior majoring in international relations and double minoring in economics and German. This is his third year working for TKS, having served previously as discourse editor. He has worked for such organizations as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Premier Tourism Marketing and the Council on American Islamic Relations-Chicago, where his work appeared in such publications as Leisure Group Travel, Ski & Ride Club Guide and The Chicago Monitor. Matt has written his political opinion column, "The Voice of Reason," weekly for three years, which finished in first place at the 2012 Illinois College Press Association conference and was also recognized at the 2013 conference.

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