I missed a few of the convention speeches last night, due to the arrival of family for an event this weekend, so I missed the story of David Oparowski, one of the more unexpected highlights of the Republican National Convention. David passed away more than 30 years ago as a teenager, from Hodgkin’s Disease, while living in Medford, Massachusetts. Soon after his diagnosis, his parents Ted and Pat told the nation last night, David began having a visitor who became a good friend to the teenager in his final months. David and Mitt Romney became close enough that the teenager asked Romney to draw up his will and deliver his eulogy when it became clear that David’s illness was terminal, a story that Byron York calls “the most extraordinary” of the convention:
They knew Romney from church, and when their 14 year-old son David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1979, Romney visited the boy regularly. “They developed a loving friendship,” Pat Oparowski said, recounting the many times Romney came to see her and her son.
David Oparowski’s cancer was terminal. During one visit, Mrs. Oparowski recalled, “David, knowing Mitt had gone to law school at Harvard, asked Mitt if he would help him write a will. He had some prize possessions that he wanted to make sure were given to his closest friends and family. The next time Mitt went to the hospital, he was equipped with his yellow legal pad and pen. Together, they made David’s will. That is a task that no child should ever have to do. But it gave David peace of mind. So after David’s death, we were able to give his skateboard, his model rockets, and his fishing gear to his best friends. He also made it clear that his brother Peter should get his Ruger .22 rifle. How many men do you know who would take the time out of their busy lives to visit a terminally ill 14 year old and help him settle his affairs?”
“David also helped us plan his funeral,” Pat Oparowski continued. “He wanted to be buried in his Boy Scout uniform. He wanted Mitt to pronounce his eulogy, and Mitt was there to honor that request. We will be ever grateful to Mitt for his love and concern.”
It was an extraordinary story, seldom mentioned in the press, and it left many in the hall in tears. “You cannot measure a man’s character based on the words he utters before adoring crowds during times that are happy,” said Ted Oparowski. “The true measure of a man is revealed in his actions during times of trouble — the quiet hospital room of a dying boy, with no cameras and no reporters.”
There are actually a number of stories like this about Romney, some less dramatic and less bittersweet, but still “extraordinary.” In truth, there are many stories like this about men and women in politics that only rarely come to light, and some like Romney don’t talk about them. One of the frustrations heard from long-time Romney supporters is that the campaign has not opened up more about these kinds of stories, but that’s a tough line to walk, too. If the campaign starts rolling out all of these stories and especially the people involved in them, it won’t take long before they get accused of exploiting the stories and the people for political gain. After having endured the summer of demonization from Team Obama, though — being accused of causing a woman’s cancer, of intending to put black people “back in chains,” and of being a felon — Team Romney obviously decided that all of their effort to remind people of Romney’s humanity couldn’t come from Ann Romney alone.
The Oparowskis told a powerful story last night, and I’m glad I belatedly caught up to it.
Update: Andrew Malcolm issues a sigh of relief that Team Romney has finally begun to answer the vilification strategy:
Seriously, was that really so hard?
Lead by a series of friends and associates who shared their own memories of Mitt, Romney finally told his story to the American people Thursday night, the last day of the Republican National Convention, that included the candidate’s eagerly-awaited acceptance speech. (Scroll down for full text and video.)
In 4,087 well-crafted words delivered in 38 fast-moving minutes, including ample time for audience applause, the former governor and businessman described himself, contrasted his vision with an attacking incumbent’s and outlined the kind of country he seeks to restore.
It was a crucial night for the would-be Oval Office occupant. He has given opponents plenty of evidence to mock his stiffness and alleged inability to connect with ordinary Americans, who genuinely want to like their leaders.
In fact, despite the scandals, the aloofness and ineptitude, a majority of Americans say they still find Barack Obama more likable than Romney. That’s a polling stat that’s inexplicable to many but one that does explain why the Democrat with no substantive economic achievements is still even in this race, according to polls.
And that may be changing soon.