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Ann Romney

Born Ann Davies, she met Mitt Romney in high school and the couple married in 1969, three months after Mitt returned from being a missionary in France. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Sept. 11, 2012. (19:49)

Born Ann Davies, she met Mitt Romney in high school and the couple married in 1969, three months after Mitt returned from being a missionary in France. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted by producer Gabrielle Tenenbaum on Sept. 11, 2012.

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    Mitt and Ann

    Let's start at the very beginning. You have what many have referred to as a storybook romance. So take me back to the very beginning and tell me how you first met.

    We met in high school. I was a sophomore and Mitt was a senior. We went to a party together, and we just saw each other, and it was sort of sparks flew. He took me home that night, and then we started dating. And it really was love at first sight, if you want to say it. Or we really did fall madly in love.

    You know, my parents had no idea, nor did his, that we -- they just assumed it was just a normal high school romance. But we knew that it was something more, and a little more special than that. And we just didn't really share that with anyone, either with our friends or our parents or anyone, because knowing how young we were, that no one would take us very seriously.

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    Mormonism
    How Mitt's car accident in France changed his life

    And not soon after you started dating, he left first to go to Stanford, and then he went on his mission. And while he was there, he was in a very serious car accident. How do you think that experience impacted him?

    I think that accident, where he was actually pronounced dead at the accident, and where the passenger -- he was driving. And, you know, it was a head-on. And he didn't even have time to brake. Someone came over the hill and hit him straight head-on. So I think it was a very crucial moment in his life, where you realized that life can be so fleeting. And the person sitting right next to him, the mission president's wife, was killed. And the mission president was very seriously injured, as was Mitt.

    But when those things happen to you, I think it's time to grow up and to say: "Life is serious. Life is fleeting. Life is precious." And then Mitt was given a great deal of responsibility afterward as well, to help run the mission, while the mission president was recovering from his injuries. And, you know, Mitt was thrown right into some very difficult situations as a very young man. And I think he left behind his boyhood, I would say, on that roadside. And I would say he learned that life is fleeting.

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    Mitt and Ann
    'He only had eyes for me'

    There are great stories about he had been gone for two years, you had scared him with some Dear John letter. Then talk to me about your emotions, waiting for him at the airport and then that ride home, and what you promised to each other.

    For someone as young as I was -- I mean, he was gone for a year at Stanford, two and a half years [in France]. He was gone three and a half years. And I was so young. And after three and a half years, I started wondering, how was I going to feel? Or how do I really even still feel? I don't know. I hadn't seen him or been with him for such a long time.

    And I was excited. I was nervous. I had butterflies in my stomach as I knew he was coming off the airplane. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. It was funny when he came off the plane, because there were a lot of people there. My parents were there. His parents were there. His sisters, his brother. My brothers were there. His nieces and nephews. It was just a whole lot of us meeting him at the airport.

    But he only had eyes for me. He made a beeline past his mother, which really was an upsetting thing for her, and just grabbed me. And it was amazing, an amazing thing that happened. It's as though all time dissolved, and we were right back exactly where we were when he left. It was just such an extraordinary thing that happened, because I had no idea how I was going to feel. I was a little ambivalent going to the airport, not sure how I felt.

    And in the car ride home, all the boisterous noise in the front -- and we were three-passenger, you know, one of those three-seated station wagons. And we were in the back seat facing out. And it was just the two of us in the back seat. And it was such an amazing car ride home, because we both said: "We've waited so long. Why should we wait any longer? Let's just get married now, like now." (Laughs.) And it was a bit of a shock to everyone. They didn't -- anyone -- quite think that was a great idea, including my parents. But that's how we felt. It was really kind of amazing.

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    Mormonism
    Her decision to convert to Mormonism

    During that period of time that he was gone, you were very young. But you made an important decision in your own life, to convert to Mormonism.

    Right.

    Talk to me about that decision and what that conversion meant to you.

    It was just sort of an evolutionary thing that happened to me. And it wasn't like it was a big moment of decision or anything like that. It just felt so right. It felt so good. And I think there was no pressure coming from Mitt whatsoever. He wasn't really involved in that decision at all. He was gone. His father, George Romney, took me to church. He did become such a good friend of mine through that experience, and sharing such deepness and fondness for that man.

    And, you know, they had such an extraordinary life. They had a life of service. It was so clear that, when you met that family, you knew that they were people that cared, people that believed in the goodness of humanity. They were just such an extraordinary family.

    So yeah, it was an easy thing for me to jump into. And I was a member while Mitt was gone. So when he came back, it was a very easy sort of transition in that respect. And it was all just sort of nice.

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    A Father's Influence

    ...Speaking of his father, he himself has called his father his idol. Talk to me about the ways that you see sort of the influence of his father on him, and the way he's modeled his life after his father.

    You know, I see George Romney -- and, you know, Mitt and I both, we just mention his name, and we both start to cry now. It's unbelievable. Here, I'll start to tear up even just mentioning his name, because he had such a huge impact on my life and on Mitt's life, and on our life together. He loved us. I mean, he literally loved everything about us and just cherished us.

    But he was such a powerful example of service and a powerful example of fairness. He was right there with the civil rights movement. He was a bold person. He was just a good person.

    But you always saw him -- and this is how I saw George -- when I was 15, 16 years old, he treated me as his absolute equal. I never felt like there was an age discrepancy between us. He treated me as a grownup person. Sometimes, when you're that age, a lot of adults don't pay you, really, any attention. And that's just how he was with everyone. And, you know, that was something I admired in him and respected in him.

    And so I think we call it the service gene that I see in my husband as well, where it's just part of their nature, is to reach out and help others, to do things for others. And that's what I saw Mitt's father doing all the time. He's the one that got me involved in United Way. He got me involved in my service. He introduced me to Marian Heard, [former president and CEO of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and CEO of United Way of New England] in Boston. And that's how my journey started, with working with some at-risk youth in the inner city of Boston.

    And, you know, he was just an example, a role model for what you do for your community, how you give back, how you serve others, how you care for others. He was also pretty independent-minded and pretty strong and colorful, I would say, too. So he was always fun to be around. He was a huge impact on both of our lives. ...

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    Mitt and AnnThe Loss to Kennedy
    Why she encouraged Mitt to enter politics

    So let's jump to politics for a minute. We've heard that you've been sort of pivotal in giving your husband that little extra push. So let's start with 1994. Tell me about the conversation about whether or not to run against Sen. [Ted] Kennedy, and why you encouraged him to take that leap.

    I think it was sort of a unanimous decision at that point, is that, you know, Mitt's father was involved in politics. And Mitt was frustrated with some of the positions that Sen. Kennedy had taken. I finally said, "Why don't you just run?" I don't think it was something that we talked about much or even thought about seriously.

    And we certainly, you know, living in Massachusetts, it wasn't like, you know, we've got this plan for our life. It wasn't that at all, because we knew what an uphill battle it would be. And it was just a matter of just saying, "Step forward, and just go forward and do." We certainly knew how long the odds were of defeating a Kennedy in Massachusetts. And we weren't surprised when we didn't win that race.

    But it was just a way for us, again, to get involved and to do things. I know so much of our lives had been involved with helping others and reaching out to doing other things, and I think Mitt saw politics as just another avenue to extend the way that we really lived our lives and cared for others and looked out for others.

    How hard was that loss on him? Some people said it was sort of one of the first big things that he had lost in his life.

    I think people would be surprised that Mitt doesn't measure his success by a political win or a political loss. We measure success by how we've done with our marriage and how we've done with our children. Those are the things that we measure our personal success by.

    It's hard when you go through a loss, but it wasn't devastating. And we moved on very, very quickly to something else. And we had the perspective of George Romney as well, which was wonderful. It's just always looking forward. He was still alive at that time, so he was involved in that at that race, too. And we had a lot of fun with him. Those were good memories, actually.

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    How Mitt helped her get through her MS diagnosis

    I want to take you to the story that you've told many, many times. But talk to me about when you received your diagnosis and how you received the news and what that experience was like for you.

    Getting the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in some ways was almost a relief, because it was an answer to what was wrong with me, because I knew there was something seriously wrong with me. And yet at the same time, you knew that it was sort of a statement that this was something I was going to have to live with for a long time, and this wasn't going to go away.

    So the enormity of having to deal with an illness that is part of your life was a very difficult thing for me and for Mitt. I went into an interesting place, because it was as though everything and every way I defined myself was taken away from me. And when you're left and stripped of everything that you sort of do and think, "Well, that's who I am; it's things that I do," you're left with something that you wonder who you really are.

    And it was wonderful to have Mitt so supportive of me during that time, because he would remind me, all the time: "You're OK. We're OK together. We'll do this. And I don't love you because of the things that you do. I love you for who you are." He was just so dear during that time. The diagnosis, of course, was difficult. And we both cried. But he was so good to me.

    And I was very fatigued. I was in bed a lot, really in bed most of the time. I just couldn't really take care of myself, even. And Mitt was so good. He would literally just crawl into bed with me in the day and just comfort me and just say: "You're OK. Just stay where you are. We're OK. Don't worry."

    He gave me permission to be sick and to start working through how for me to deal with this illness. And I know everyone responds differently, and everyone has their difficulties with the disease, but I was progressing very quickly.

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    Was there a turning point, one specific moment, especially during the times he was at the Olympics, where you sort of felt, "OK, I'm on the right path," all of a sudden?

    Medications stopped the progression of the disease, which was a good thing. Unfortunately, it's a horrible way to go, because it's steroids, you know, and IV steroids. It's not a good thing. But it stopped the progression.

    But for me to start getting better was a healing process that I went through. It wasn't like all of a sudden I was better. It took years. It literally took years for me to regain my balance and to regain some of my strength.

    But I knew I was slowly inching my way to being a little stronger over those three years. And I was much stronger by the end of the three years than I was when I first went there.

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    Olympics

    OK, during that period of time, with all you were going through, you encouraged him to take that job anyhow. Tell me why.

    I look back on that, I'm going, "What was I thinking?" I mean, really? That was crazy. I was so sick. My youngest son was a senior in high school. Mitt was doing fabulously well with his business. What was I thinking, to just pick up and just go? But there are some times when you just know that you're supposed to do something, or you just feel it in your heart. And you just know it's the right thing to do. And I just felt like that. I just felt like it was just the right thing to do.

    I had no idea whether it would be successful or not. I had no friends. We didn't have family out there. I didn't have friends out there. I didn't have doctors out there. It was a scary, scary move for me, in particular because I was leaving behind so many security things. But I just felt like it was the right thing to do.

    It ended up being the best experience of our lifetime, the best. I got better. We had a wonderful time. Mitt took no pay when he did that. He left his business. He took no pay. It was a time where you really felt like you were giving back, and the rewards that come from that are just so enormous.

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    Romney '08

    Let's jump to 2008 quickly. And again, sort of as the person who is giving him the nudge, why did you encourage him to seek the presidency that year?

    It would have been '06, '07, something like that.

    Exactly.

    Again, it was sort of that same impression. It's like, let's go do this. When my father was dying, I'll never forget, he lived his life so robustly, and he was dying. And he just grabbed my hands and he goes: "Oh, just live your life and don't have any regrets. Just go."

    I was thinking about him. And when you make choices like that, it's like, well, you know, it seemed like such an adventure. I had no idea how hard it was -- (laughs) -- and how difficult it would actually be on the family and everything. It seemed, again, like the right thing to do.

    At the end of that process, however, I came to a different conclusion, which is, I will never do that again. I felt that, like it was so tough for me emotionally to have my husband being vilified or anything. It was just that whole process was just really, really tough for me. And I was like, "No way, and never again." And I think the more shocking thing is that I had come around all the way for the next round to say, "Yes, you should do this again."

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    There's one story in particular that we've heard from that period of time. You had a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton with some Iowa delegates, and one of them brought up the idea of whether or not your husband would be able to relate to people because of his wealth. As I read that story, you seemed to be very upset by that question. Talk to me. What do you remember of that?

    The perspective through which I see my husband is through a lens of where he's always given service. He's always cared for others. He's always been there for others. And it doesn't matter, you know, where their station in life was. It's irrelevant to us where people are, because things change. I mean, people are just so wonderful.

    And Mitt is the kind of guy that has always just been there, caring and giving. And for people to just naturally assume that, because we have wealth, it means we can't relate to those that don't, is just a wrong assumption, because everyone is a son or daughter of God, and we're all in this together. And Mitt and our lives have been dedicated to helping others, reaching out to others.

    That wonderful story at the convention with Ted and Pat Oparowski about their son David, the Oparowskis were -- he was a fireman from Medford, [Mass]. But where was Mitt when their son was dying of leukemia? Mitt was at his bedside. And that's who Mitt is. And it doesn't matter, you know, what kind of position you have in life. Those things are irrelevant to Mitt. And he's there. He's there for people. He cares about people. He is the kind of guy that will just always try to be there and help.

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    Why she pushed him to run in 2012

    The turn, you said the crazier idea was that you jumped back in. We spoke with Tagg, and he said the family was brought together. And you two were the only ones sort of in the yea camp. And you specifically were really the one that sort of --

    Yeah. I mean, the thing is, I knew exactly what a campaign meant. There were going to be no surprises. I knew how tough a campaign was. I knew how tough the primary was going to be. To me that wasn't the deciding factor as to whether we should go forward or not.

    The deciding factor to me was: Mitt, if you actually have the possibility to finally get in the White House and actually have the opportunity to run the country, is it too late, basically, to turn the country around? Because I think we're all recognizing that we're facing a very enormous fiscal cliff right now. And a lot of people are unemployed.

    And, you know, his answer was: "Why, it's getting late. But it's not too late yet." And I said: "That's really all I need to know. I know that you can do that. I know." I have trust, complete trust in this man and his capabilities. Like I say, he will not fail. He does not fail. He will be thinking and working every single day for every person that's unemployed or underemployed. He'll swim upstream. He'll die trying to make sure to get it right, and to make sure that he gets the country going again, and that he gets the economic engine turned on again.

    And I had that belief in him and trusted it and just said, "Look, we have to run, just because I know you have the unusual skill set of having done so many unusual things in your life." He's turned around companies. He's been in consulting. He's been a governor. He's run the Olympics. He has a lot of experience at turning troubled things around. And so I just trust that he'll be able to turn the country around, too.

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    Romney's Core NatureRomney's Ambition and Motivation

    In his core, in his heart, you know, why does he want this so badly? And what is the thing that's motivating him most? And is there, you know -- you talked about his father.

    Yeah, there's that service gene. There's that caring gene that I think if people were to know anything about Mitt, is that he cares. I think beyond anything else is that you look at how the powerful example George Romney was in his life. And what was George Romney? Mitt saw him as a servant, always. And I think that's how Mitt is, too. He's always been there. Gratefully, he's always showed my children, too. He's been a huge example in my children's life of how you serve others.

    And Mitt cares. He cares about so many people that are hurting right now in this economy. And I think if you know that about Mitt, if you know one thing about Mitt, he's a guy that cares.

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