Rev. Jeffrey Brown says Romney is a deeply caring man.
When Ann Romney delivered her remarks Tuesday night, her task was to reverse the image that Democrats have sought to create of her husband as a cold-hearted corporate raider rather than a man that is caring and compassionate.
It won't be easy. Romney shies away from talking about himself in personal terms, and as he said this week, "I am what I am."
But according to those who know him well, such as African-American Baptist preacher Jeffrey Brown, a former executive director of the Boston TenPoint Coalition and founder of Ten Point international, both faith-based organizations that focus on issues that impact Black and Latino youth, particularly gang violence, there is much more than meets the eye.
Brown first met Romney in the late '90s while working with Ann, who was then chair of the United Way's Faith and Action committee.
"Back in those days, people were just beginning to understand the role of faith-based institutions as they intersect with issues like public safety," Brown, a Democrat, recalled. "They were nice people and supporters of the work we were doing."
After being tapped to head the Winter Olympics, Romney invited Brown to Salt Lake City to talk with law enforcement officials, and while there he spent time getting to know the future Massachussetts governor and his family. Back in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was pastor of Union Baptist Church, two of Romney's sons, who were studying at Harvard, would periodically play hooky from services at their Mormon temple to worship with Brown's congregation. Their parents also turned up on occasion and continued to do so during Romney's gubernatorial campaign.
Brown was impressed by how the future lawmaker would sit through the entire service, rather than speak and run like other politicians. And when Romney won office he became part of the governor's "little kitchen cabinet of advisers."
He was doubly impressed when after Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Romney galvanized the state's faith-based community to provide refuge to victims of the storm.
Romney's veer to the right has not escaped Brown's attention, but he attributes it to the candidate doing what he must to win his party's nomination.
"The Romney I know is a person with deeply held convictions and someone who cares about people," Brown said. "I think where we connected was that we had a similar conviction to help all people."
He believes people who don't know Romney would be surprised to learn how much he cares about people and his desire to see everyone reach "their fullest potential and be all that they can."
Romney is "not as zipped and buttoned up as folks would say," Brown added. "He loves to have lively conversations and get down into issues. He may be a little corny, but he likes to have fun, too. He's a good guy."
Brown voted for President Obama in 2008 and would not reveal whom he'll vote for in 2012, but he did say he believes African-Americans would fare well under a President Romney. As an example, he recalled a time when the governor's office sought to change the name of the state's affirmative action office to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, eliciting an outcry among African-Americans who feared it was a move to eliminate the policy.
"So of course he called me and said, 'I'm not trying to do that,'" said Brown, who advised him to meet with the community to discuss the issue, which he did.
"And as a result of him listening to folks, he left the whole thing alone," Brown said. "I always saw the incident as an indicator that despite him not being in the party that most Black people are in, he nonetheless listened to the concerns of people of color."
Brown said that as president, Romney would try to find common ground because he understands he must be president of all people. And because of that, if there is change in November from an Obama to a Romney White House, Brown feels he will at least still have hope.
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