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Mitt Romney closed his Sunday rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with a stirring account of patriotism from American speed skater Derek Parra at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Watch the whole speech below, but the story begins around 9:00:
This guy [Parra] skates his heart out, trains and trains, ends up beating a lot of big fellas, I’m sure, from Michigan, where I came from, Wisconsin, Minnesota. Becomes a member of the United States speed skating team, long track….He’s long track, though, so he comes out to Salt Lake City, skates his heart out. 5000 meters, he gets the silver medal. 1500 medals, he gets the gold medal. Fastest man on earth on skates. So I invited him to sit with the vice presient. And as he came in, I said, "Derek, what was the most meaningful experience in your Olympic games?" And he said, “Carrying in the flag that had flown above the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, into the Opening Ceremonies."
He was one of the eight athletes that was selected to carry in that flag. It’s about eight by twelve feet, and it’s torn and burned. And it can’t be put up a flagpole, so you have to bring it in horizontally. So he carried it in. And he said, "As we brought it into the stadium, some 50, 55 thousand people, we expected that when it was announced, they’d burst into cheers, but instead, total silence. Complete reverence." And he said, “We carried the flag and stopped in front of the choir, and they began performing the national anthem." And he said, "Mitt, it was hard to hold onto my emotion as they were singing those words and I was holding that flag."
And then he said, "The choir did something I hadn’t expected." Now I knew it was coming because I was the guy in charge of the Olympics, and I picked the version of the national anthem they sang. And it was an old 1930’s version by Robert Shaw, where you repeat the last line. You repeat it as a reprise. The sopranos go up an octave, much greater orchestration. “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” And he said, “This time, as they sang it, a gust of wind blew in the flag and lifted it in their hands.” And he said, “For me, it was as if the spirits of all those that had fought and died for American liberty had just blown into that flag.” And he said, “Tears began to run down my face.” And as he just told me that story, tears filled my eyes.
We love this country. We know it’s an exceptional land. We understand that when the Founders wrote those words that said the Creator endowed us with our rights that they were right. That among those rights are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’re a nation given those freedoms. We share them with people around the world. This is the greatest nation the world has seen in part because of that extraordinary beginning, that idea, as Paul said. We are not going to change America into something we don’t recognize. We’re going to restore to America the principles that made America the hope of the earth. We’re going to do everything in our power to keep America strong—in our homes, in our economy, in our military, second to none. This nation has a mission to perform. We’re going to make it happen. We’re going to keep America the shining city on the hill.