One might have thought that Tagg Romney's visit to Harvard on Tuesday was akin to a trip behind enemy lines.
In the past year, former Massachusetts Gov. W. Mitt Romney, who received a joint degree from the Business and Law schools in 1975, has criticized his alma mater's support of stem cell research and repeatedly chided the university's decision a year ago to host former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, including in a radio ad released just last month.
But at a campaign event held on Tuesday night at Emerson Hall and attended by roughly 30 Romney supporters, Tagg Romney, the eldest of the five Romney sons, said he did not feel that his father's comments have had much impact on how Harvard students viewed the elder Romney-now a leading Republican presidential candidate.
Tagg Romney, a 1998 graduate of the Business School and a senior advisor to his father's campaign, said there was an unspoken undercurrent of support for Romney's criticism of Harvard.
"My dad is not going to win the majority of Harvard votes," he said. But "it is so important to encourage young people to get involved and wonderful to see so many Romney supporters at this meeting."
Romney did not back away from his father's statements. He said, for instance, that it was Harvard's "obligation" to pressure rather than host people associated with the ruling regime in Iran.
"Harvard led the way in reforming South Africa during the 1980s by applying political and economic pressure," Tagg Romney said. "Harvard never would have invited a white supremacist or apartheid supporter to speak."
In his talk, Romney focused on his father's ideals and the qualities that he said made him the best candidate for president. Calling his father the "best problem solver I know," Romney stressed the former Massachusetts governor's commitment to health care, family values, and education.
While he explained that his father "doesn't think religion should play no role [in politics]," he emphasized that the American values of "faith, hard work, honesty, and love of family," are most important in changing America for the better.
Jeffrey Kwong, the president of the Harvard Republican Club said the involvement of Tagg Romney and his family "plays to the strength of [Romney's] campaign."
"The best way to learn about a candidate is through his or her family," Kwong said. Romney, in his remarks, echoed those sentiments.
Romney said his role as his father's senior adviser is the most honest form of campaigning. "You can't fake family."
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© 2007 Harvard Crimson via U-WIRE