While America calls Mitt Romney the Republican nominee for president, the new director of the LaGrange Art Museum calls him family.
For Karen Briggs, it’s all part of a long family tradition in politics.
Briggs, whose father’s name is Romney, is a member of the large and extensive Romney clan which makes her close kin and cousins to both the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, and his son, current presidential candidate Mitt Romney. She was raised to have strong opinions and express them, but to also respect the opinions of others.
“My mother came to the dinner table with ‘Emily Post’ and my father came with ‘Robert’s Rules of Order.’ My dad picked the topic of the day and the kids were assigned a debate position, pro or con. We all had to give our opinions,” Briggs said. “When I watch Mitt debate, it takes me right back to the kitchen table.”
While most all of the Romney clan maintain houses in Utah, many of Briggs’ Romney relatives grew up in D.C.
“There weren’t many Mormons in D.C., so we were all in one tiny (church) parish. I went to Sunday School with Mormon politicos and industry titans including Marriotts, Udalls, Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson and a lot of Romneys,” she said.
Briggs grew up hearing the stories of her ancestors, especially Junius Romney, who was 26 years old when he was appointed by the Mormon Church to be president of the Mormon colonies in Mexico.
“When Pancho Villa came through Colonial Juarez during the Mexican revolution, Junius Romney led over 4,000 Mormons out of Mexico and back into the U.S. to safety. So they didn’t have to dissolve the families,” Briggs said. “He loaded them all into train cars and headed for the US border. We grew up hearing those stories about people leaving dinner on the stove and running from their homes.”
It was that kind of leadership that was held in high esteem during her childhood.
“Romneys have always been leaders. We were raised to be what we were, not who we are. Romneys are a dynasty and we don’t forget that,” she said.
They’re not all like-minded, though, she said. Some even lean to the left.
“We’re opinionated and stubborn and we even have some left-wing Romneys. In fact, my mother is a Republican, but my dad is a Democrat,” she said.
If Mitt Romney becomes president of the United States, it will require a bit of an attitude shift for Briggs.
“It’s humbling. There is a respect and awe and responsibility someone has to have in that position,” she said. “You can make fun of your cousin, but not the president.”