Latest book shows Romney family values not just fluff

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Ann Romney excused herself, then laughed hardily as we began chatting this morning. When you have 10 rushed minutes to speak with someone as experienced with reporters as the former First Lady of Massachusetts, it doesn’t make sense to start the interview by asking the same predictable questions she’s answered and dodged a thousand times before.

We began instead by discussing the Fluffernutter recipe she included on page 11 of The Romney Family Cookbook.   Written in 2013, an old photograph included in the book shows how much the family loves the All-American Fluffernutter. After Romney stopped laughing and caught her breath, she asked if it would be OK to use some of our 10 minutes to relate a family story. She said one of her boys summed up his disappointment with not having dad win his bid for the White House by saying, “Mrs. Obama’s nutritional initiatives may be a good idea, but if dad were in the White House now, kids would get Fluffernutter sandwiches for lunch everyday and love it.”

With the twist of a fluff jar, the door to discussing past, present and future Romney interest in the White House was opened!

Today, the Romneys frequently hear the growing calls for Mitt to join the race for the White House again. The rehearsed rebuttal is “We’re happy to sit on the sidelines, be cheerleaders, and watch how the process plays out.” Ann Romney says they ”remain passionate about the country and expect the family to be influential in helping the Republican nominee.”  She continues the thought in a voice that sounds very practiced, “We made the right decision not to run at this time.”

She admits she cried the night her husband conceded the presidency to President Obama. “It kills us we didn’t win.” She cried because she knew the former governor would have made a strong president and lead the country in a direction away from the political entanglements we’re in now.

In the foreseeable future she imagines one or two of their five boys will enter local politics. Forty-year-old Josh, a real estate developer and owner of Romney Ventures in Salt Lake City, and 45-year-old venture capitalist Tagg, in Belmont, Mass., seem most inclined to follow in the footsteps of their dad and granddad Gov. George Romney of Michigan. Here again, Romney repeats, “But you never know what may happen.”

Ann Romney's latest book, In This Together: My Story

Ann Romney’s latest book, In This Together: My Story

Romney  must know that political horse race enthusiasts chomp at the bit, hoping that she will announce from her book tour that her husband is prepared to answer the call to serve. For now, she criss-crosses country trails promoting her easy to read book on deliverance to the promised land of medical research, rather than politics.

Ann and Mitt Romney’s brood of boys grew up on cherished family recipes, hard work and politics. The ingredients for success, as explained in Ann Romney’s latest book, In This Together: My Story, are simple: family, faith and service to others.

In the memoir, released in September, Romney talks about her early life, her marriage and children, her husband’s career, and the unexpected challenges of a life too often dismissively characterized as charmed. It includes an interesting mix of stories about her exploration of faith, the Olympics, politics and sadly, multiple sclerosis.

She recounts her initial sense of anxiety, depression and isolation after her 1998 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. With hard work, perseverance, and help from family, dear friends, riding companions and brilliant research scientists, her disease is now in remission.

For 20-plus years, Romney has been on a quest to find and share answers about the treatment and management of Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), MS, Parkinson’s and brain tumors.

She is leading an effort to raise $50 million to support the research efforts of 250 scientists at the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston.

Last October the Romney family, Betsy Nabel, president of BWH Health Care, and the entire BWH community oversaw the first day of construction of what will be a new eight-floor facility designed to be the crossroad of accelerated global innovation in neurologic therapy. Today, half the funds have been raised for the new Center though donations and the proceeds from Ann Romney’s book sales. The hope is this one-of-a-kind space will be the hub for care, treatment, and research by 2016.

Today, the Ann Romney Center sponsors, a website where people with neurological diseases can share their journeys. An introductory video with Montel Williams, Jack Osborn, Pete Frete’s mom Nancy, and Ann Romney welcomes those who are impacted by neurologic disease and those who love them.

Howard Weiner, M.D., Romney’s multiple sclerosis specialist, and his colleague of 25 years Dennis Selkoe M.D., whose focus is on Alzheimer’s disease, have found keys that unlock some of the brain’s mysteries. Their research links seemingly unrelated diseases with overlapping findings in Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and brain tumors. Romney’s voice quickens as she explains “they really are on the verge of new discoveries.”  The Center is designed to support the synergistic efforts of brilliant researchers as they break down the silos of each discipline’s science, then connect them to see the bigger picture of human neurodegeneration.

Our conversation ended as Romney explained how complicated her days are shuttling across the country promoting In This Together: My Story.  I asked if there was any reason to think she’d be serving Fluffernutters in the White House soon, she laughed again, and said, “Excuse me, I gotta run.”

Was that the All-American family recipe for a dodge, or was it an announcement?

Diane Kilgore is a Boston-area blogger.