Presidential Papas: Romney Tries to Live and Leave His Father's Legacy

If you read the story of George Romney then you will be amazed at how much Mitt Romney's life has matched it. While they had very different childhoods -- the elder Romney grew up poor -- once adulthood was reached you will find an almost eerie resemblance in careers. But where George Romney eventually failed to reach the presidency, Mitt Romney is trying to turn that family failure into a success. As Mitt himself said of his father, "He has been my greatest influence."

George W. Romney grew up a poor missionary kid but discovered the American dream early in adulthood. He entered the auto industry at a young age and eventually became head of the American Motors Corporation, completely revitalizing the company and returning  it to profitability. He then shifted to politics and became a very popular three-term, moderate Republican governor of Michigan. He more than doubled the government's spending but kept a balanced budget. He was known for getting things done.

The younger Romney, of course, did not grow up as a poor missionary kid. He lived surrounded by the wealth his father created. But his passion for the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) mirrored his father's passion. It is not required for young LDS men to do a two year mission trip, but it is greatly encouraged for those serious about their faith. Both father and son did their own two year mission trip when they were young, and Mitt followed his dad's example by going to Western Europe as his father had decades earlier. Both men sincerely wanted to see conversions to the LDS on their separate trips and shared similar frustrations in the lack of results they saw while on mission.  (Read the loving fatherly letters from George to Mitt expressing this similarity here.)

Mitt would come home, get married, and get to copying his father's life in more ways. Mitt went into business just like dad (even though George wanted his son to be a lawyer). The younger Romney went to work for Bain & Company, eventually helping to form Bain Capital, which focused on buying losing companies and turning them into profitable successes they could sell. As his dad turned around one company, Mitt made his own fortune seeking to turn around many more.