Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was expected to use his commencement address Saturday at Liberty University to bolster his conservative bona fides.
His speech did extol the virtues of faith and family, but the presumptive GOP presidential nominee also used it to allay lingering concerns that he lacks a sense of humor.
Speaking to an audience of 36,000 at the Virginia university founded by late evangelical Christian leader Jerry Falwell, Romney delivered a few jokes, some at his own expense.
The crowd chuckled when he noted: “Promotions often mark the high point in a career, and I hope I have not seen my last.”
He also provoked laughter as he recalled his decision to take charge of the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. “I’m embarrassed now to recall that when this opportunity was first presented to me, I dismissed it out of hand. I was busy, I was doing well,” he said. “And by the way, my lack of athletic prowess did not make the Olympics a logical step.”
He noted that his children agreed. “In fact, after I had accepted the position, my oldest son called me and said, ‘Dad, I have spoken to the brothers. We saw the paper this morning. We want you to know there’s not a circumstance we could have conceived of that would put you on the front page of the sports section.’ ”
He also threw humorous jabs at the graduates. “Some of you may have taken a little longer than four years to complete your studies,” Romney said. “One graduate has said that he completed his degree in only two terms: Clinton’s and Bush’s.”
Romney saluted Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy, who received a honorary degree at the ceremony. “The Romney campaign comes to a sudden stop when we spot a Chick-fil-A,” he said. “Your chicken sandwiches were our comfort food through the primary season, and there were days that we needed a lot of comforting.”
Romney even had one for the parents.
“The American Dream is not owning your own home,” he said, crediting the line to former House Republican leader Dick Armey. “It is getting your kids out of the home you own.”