This week, we shine the spotlight on Architect of Change of the Week Ann Romney, the former First Lady of Massachusetts. Mrs. Romney recently celebrated the dedication of the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We spoke with Mrs. Romney about the importance of the center and her passion for the cause, which arose from her own fight with multiple sclerosis.
The Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases is truly a labor of love. What do the dedication and this center mean to you?
The Center’s new home in the Building for Transformative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is spectacular. It was designed specifically to encourage collaboration between our more than 250 doctors and researchers, allowing them to work together across diseases to advance promising research, treatments, and cures for countless patients who confront neurologic diseases. It means so much to Mitt and me to know that this new, state-of-the-art space will accelerate the pace of discovery, and get us closer to a world free of these devastating diseases.
The dedication celebration was so moving. It was a day we had worked toward for several years and we were grateful to share the Center’s new home with many close friends and supporters of the effort—and now, most importantly, with the patients.
More than 50 million people worldwide suffer from neurologic diseases. What impact do you hope the center will have?
When we publically launched the Center two years ago, our intent was to advance research, empower patients and build a vibrant community of hope for people around the world who, like me, are fighting neurologic diseases. Being in a shared space, designed to encourage collaboration, will allow the talented physician-scientists to build on their groundbreaking work to truly accelerate progress—giving us renewed hope that our grandchildren will grow up in a world free of neurologic diseases. I remain absolutely committed to alleviating suffering and creating a better future for the millions of brave people worldwide who confront neurologic diseases.
What is one thing you’d like everyone to do to get involved today?
Well, I have two. First, I would love for people to learn more about the Center’s work. I encourage readers to visit www.bwhannromneycenter.org where they will find details about our latest research and discoveries, read patient stories and view videos and photos. For patients and families who are battling neurologic diseases, we encourage you to share your stories about your personal journey at www.50millionfaces.org.
When you joined me for an Architects of Change Live conversation, we spoke about how politics is ultimately about making people’s lives better. How do you think politics is perceived by the American people right now? What do you think we can do to give it a more positive connotation?
I don’t think people are feeling very optimistic about politics right now. We are capable of greater kindness, collaboration, and unity than we’re currently experiencing. My interactions with those on the campaign trail, with those I’ve met suffering from neurologic diseases, and random encounters with people I meet at the grocery store convince me of that. We have to once again see each other as people – people with hearts and minds and passions – and not just as ideologies we disagree with. My hope is that we’ll find ways to work across divides to better this country for our children and grandchildren. Because we’re in this together. For better or worse. And we might as well make it for the better.
We talk so much about reconciliation and bridging the divide between parties and the American people. Was there anything your husband did to bridge the divide with President Barack Obama after the 2012 election?
Mitt and President Obama had lunch at the White House shortly after the 2012 election. During the campaign they may not have agreed on the path forward for America but when President Obama won, we wished him well and prayed for his success. One of the cornerstones of American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power from one presidency to the next. It is so important that we all come together after a hard-fought election.
What will you be thinking about this upcoming week?
About a year or two after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis it was becoming clear that I might not have much time left before any physical activity was a thing of the past. As a little girl, I had loved horses—I had connected with them. But when I married Mitt, and we had all those boys, I hadn’t had time to ride. So I decided, even if it was only one more time in my life, I was going to get back on a horse before I was no longer able to. And so I got back on. And I did again, and again, and slowly my strength started returning. It was amazing, being on the back of a horse, how my body slowly started to respond to the activity: my balance, my muscle memory, my strength—it all started to improve. And it brought me joy and hope, which countered the deep depression I was in at the time.
Fast forward 15 plus years and I am currently the 2016 U.S. Dressage Federation amateur I2 West Coast champion. Next week, I am competing in the US Dressage Finals for a national title. So you can bet that is what I will be thinking about this week!
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