Maria Shriver and Ann Romney sat down together at the Reagan Presidential Library on Tuesday, October 13th in the evening as part of the “Architects of Change” Conversation Series. They talked Romney’s new memoir “In This Together,” her experience fighting Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and her new mission to raise funding for brain research as an Architect of Change and as the Global Ambassador for the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases in at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Being an Architect of Change
Shriver began the discussion with her belief that every one can be an Architect of Change.
“I do believe that every single person in this room, up there, down here, and watching on C-span is capable of creating change in our world. And all you have to do is step forward. Sometimes the first step is the most difficult. But everybody here has a voice. Everybody here has a mission and a purpose. And everybody can make the world what I say is better, more conscious, more caring and compassionate.”
Romney agreed, describing how her MS diagnosis made her stronger, more empathetic and gave her a new perspective on her mission in life.
“We all have a bag of rocks that we carry in life, and most of the time nobody can see the bag of rocks that’s thrown over our shoulders… We need to be more compassionate and caring– and recognize that everybody has a bag of rocks– and that we need to be more caring and kind.”
Finding Cures for Neurological Diseases
Shriver asked Romney what impact she hoped her book would make and what she wanted to inspire people to do. Romney described her mission as Global Ambassador, raising funds for research for neurological diseases, like MS, ALS and Alzheimer’s among others, that currently have no cure. Yet, she believes we are on the cusp of making giant leaps forwards.
“With Alzheimer’s right now, you get the diagnosis, and they send you home. And they tell the family, that we’re sorry: there’s nothing we can do. I feel as though we are on the threshold of great discovery…
We have the ability now to literarily have the impact on neurosciences that are going to change the lives of millions of people.
That’s why I’m hopeful about Alzheimer’s,” she added. “The diagnostic tools that are now available are so sophisticated. The MRI imaging. We are able to look in the brain and see function that we were never able to see before, and understand… So you just take it one step at a time… There is such a wide open field and so much potential for these neurological diseases.”
Romney explained that a lot of research in this country is done by the NIH, but its funding has been shrinking. And if you want to do something really experimental, that is a little bit outside the box, the NIH isn’t going to fund that until it’s up and coming and they know that it’s working.
“So if you want to see the really brilliant breakthroughs, it’s going to have come from philanthropic dollars… The real breakthroughs I think are going to come from citizens getting behind and helping support some of this research.”
Linking research and politics, Shriver said, “One of the things is to get the Presidential candidates in this election cycle to talk about caregiving, to talk about brain research, to talk about what we can do as a united nation, as the United States of America, to focus really on finding cures for these diseases.”
And on the night of the first Democratic Presidential Debate, the two notable women figureheads on each side of the political scene couldn’t help but discuss the current campaign season.
Shriver asked Romney why she felt it was important to come to Hillary Clinton’s defense recently.
“I just felt that so much of it is unfair, and cruel really,” Romney said. “And if you really look at what politics is about–what it should be about–is making people’s lives better. And if that’s why we’re motivated to be involved in politics, why is it that we have to beat everybody up so much, and just like decimate them?”
Shriver then asked, “Is your mouth on the floor at all, watching any of the Republican debates?”
“I think I am kind of amazed at what’s going on,” Romney replied.
“Can you elaborate?” Shriver asked. “What exactly are you amazed at?”
“You know, I will say that the fact that more people are watching is a good thing. The fact that people are disparaging ethnic groups or women is not a a good thing. And so, for me, it’s important to have civility because civility brings the ability to deal with one another and respect one another… And so if we expect our leaders to be good leaders… how can we have someone that is calling people bad names be the leader of the free world, that’s gotta deal with Putin? How is that going to work?”
“So would you find yourself challenged if a certain person who is calling people names became the Republican nominee?” Shriver asked, with laughs from Romney and the audience. “Would you find yourself challenged voting for that person?”
“It would give me pause,” Romney answered.
The two women also discussed a different aspect of the election: money. “When I look at what the political campaigns are raising to run for office,” Shriver said, “Over a billion dollars, I think of what we could do with a billion dollars–
“You know, just that,” Romney jumped in. “Me too, Maria! I get so upset about that… I have to say, it was much easier to raise political dollars than it has been to raise research dollars.”
“OK, so this is something that we can begin to change right now,” Shriver ended. “You’re inspiring us, that we’re going to start raising some research dollars.”
Watch the full conversation above, including the Q&A with the audience at the end.