California suffered many large and devastating wildfires in the Fall of 2007. San Diego County was no exception. In fact the scale and number of fires there were unprecedented.
This Los Angeles Times web page lists many very good articles that describe the human tragedies as well as the enormous property damage sustained during this “fire season” as we describe it in our state. Another article describes how many victims found relief and solace in their faith.
This news item describes the some of the impacts following the 2007 San Diego area fires.
During this time, it seemed like all of California could burn away as we were experiencing wildfires in all counties surrounding our home. This was almost exactly four years ago and the presidential race was in full swing, as it is today.
I remember receiving a tip to a story of someone’s home that needed a tree stump removed — the result of a tree that had been badly burned during one of San Diego’s wildfires. Several men responded to the need by organizing and working hard for a few hours to remove the deeply rooted tree trunk. One of those that showed up for the needed work was Governor Romney. He and his son Matt worked alongside a few other men to get the job done.
That story is as impressive to me today as it was when I first heard it. Nobody from the press or media was ever present and, as far as I can recall, this story was never publicized in any major news outlets.
Contrast this little service project with the many we witness every year by politicians that work the soup lines or other charity events at which they know there will be numerous reporters and cameras. The soup lines in particular always annoy me in a big way. The people in line are the most poverty stricken among us and aside from their obvious need for sustenance, they have a natural need for dignity. Exposure to television cameras serves only to diminish human dignity in a setting like those.
In the case of the tree stump removal, obviously Governor Romney did not do the service for notoriety or media exposure, as there were none. There is no question in my mind that such hard, manual labor would be cathartic during an intense and grueling presidential campaign. So there is a good chance Governor Romney needed the break, the exercise, and the stress release anyway.
The service provided by these men is best described in this short YouTube by the brother of the woman that lived in the home with the tree stump (posted almost exactly four years ago today):
Few people know that Governor Romney received (as I recall) $1.00 every year in compensation when he served as governor and for three years after he took the helm of the 2002 Olympics turn-around “service project” — which, by the way was a tremendously enormous responsibility (I believe he also was paid $1.00/year when he was asked to come back to Bain to turn it around). Think about it: He inherited a $379 million deficit in 1999 and during the time he was chief executive, the world’s worst terrorist event occurred. In addition to turning around a failed project, dealing with a corrupt international Olympics entity, he instantly had a mandate to guarantee that no terror event would interrupt the Games. Many experts felt the Games should be cancelled for practical and safety concerns. Governor Romney ignored those suggestions and drove the team to an astounding success — one of the most successful Games in history [please fact check me!]. Oh, and he delivered a $100 million profit/surplus after it was over! This story, that Governor Romney refers to as a footnote, is nothing short of extraordinary IN EVERY WAY.
Now, what would have happened if Gingrich were given the very same responsibility with a failed Olympics project? He would have demanded a huge salary, #1. The team he inherited would have quit after the first week, #2. The next team he brought in would likely quit a few weeks later and tell the media how hard it is to work with the man, #3. This last one is only my opinion and I own it: When September 11th happened and Gingrich heard the cries to cancel, he would have quit with a large deficit in place. Remember, he is an ideas guy, not an execution guy — he is not an executive.
The cynical have nothing good to say about Governor Romney or his actions. That’s fine:They are wrong. His many years of selfless service are proved out by his talent, skill, art, and experience in turnaround executive leadership. No current presidential candidate compares, even to a small degree.
Compare Mitt Romney any day to Newt Gingrich, whose life for the last 20+ years has been 100% devoted to self-aggrandizement and self-promotion.
“I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson