Reader’s Digest: If you had to write a book about this campaign experience, what would the title be?
Mitt Romney: The title of this campaign … The Longest Journey.
RD: After all these years as a public figure, do you think the American people know the real Mitt Romney? Maybe I should ask, What do you want us to know about you that we don’t know?
Romney: I don’t think people know me terribly well, because I was governor of one state and haven’t been seen by people across the nation. But they’ll come to know me as time goes on. I’m a family guy. Most important thing in my life by far is my relationship with my wife and my sons, daughters-in-law, and 18 grandchildren. And for me, this is all about them.
RD: This campaign?
Romney: This campaign. The reason I’m in this campaign is for my kids and for their kids, and for the young people of America.
RD: Reader’s Digest is in 76 countries around the world, most of which will publish this interview. So finish this sentence: The world needs the next president of the United States to …
Romney: Keep America strong. Strong in our values, strong in our economy, and strong in our military might. We hope to never have to use our military strength, but the world counts on a strong America to keep the worst actors from doing the worst things.
RD: How about this sentence: Americans need the next president to …
Romney: Build a stronger economy and restore the principles that made America the economic powerhouse it has long been.
RD: A president has to make life-and-death decisions—to kill an enemy of the United States, for example, or to go to war. How would you explain such a decision to a child, perhaps one of your grandchildren?
Romney: The decision to put American lives at risk is a decision that has a very high hurdle to pass. There would have to be a substantial American interest at stake. We would have to understand clearly what our mission was, how we would achieve it. We would need to provide to our men and women the resources to be successful. We would need to understand how we would leave and what would go on after we were home. I would explain to my children very simply that the defense of liberty is a cause that exacts a very high price in the history of humankind.
RD: Let’s talk about family. I’m wondering if you have a family saying that gets you through hard times. If you do, what is it, and who came up with it?
Romney: “This, too, shall pass.” I’m kidding—that was not our family saying.
RD: But that’s a good one, right?
RD: If after people die they can observe their loved ones, what do you believe your mother, Lenore, is thinking about the life you’ve led?
Romney: My guess is that my mom and dad are very actively involved in the affairs of the next life, and they don’t spend too much time looking back. My dad used to say he always looks forward, he never looks back. But given the fact that I’m in a presidential race, I hope the Master gives them a chance to look in now and then. And I hope that I’m serving the principles that they believed in.
RD: And what were those?
Romney: They loved America. They believed that America presented the greatest hope to the earth for freedom and liberty. And they’d want me to defend those things.
RD: Can you sum up in one word the kind of life you’ve given your sons?