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LETTER TARGETS POLITICAL APATHY

George Romney has never been afraid to speak his mind.

Speaking the truth - as he sees it - likely cost him the presidential nomination when in 1965 he told Americans after he visited Vietnam, "We've been brain-washed."In a phone interview from his Michigan home Saturday, Romney said he doesn't regret his comment. "Vietnam was a tragic, tragic, costly mistake in foreign affairs. Americans were being told that we were there strictly in an advisory capacity. That was a lot of baloney. I'm not sorry I spoke the truth."

He spoke boldly then and continues to speak out in 1992 with the same unabashed manner that characterizes the former three-term Michigan governor who spent many school years in Utah.

Deeply disturbed about the future of the country, Romney personally paid for the advertisement on Page A9 in today's Deseret News that urges Americans to become involved in the political process. The ad - which ran last week in the New York Times, the Washington Post and three Michigan newspapers - targets the many Americans who have become apathetic to the political maze.

He wrote his letter a few weeks ago while on a plane returning to Michigan from Salt Lake City where he had been honored as a modern pioneer.

Now radio shows are inviting him to share his message. Letters are pouring in. A woman from Arlington, Va., thanked Romney for motivating her to vote. A man from Washington, D.C., wrote, "Your comments are a refreshing reminder that we still have proven leadership to help remedy our national malaise." A Baltimore voter called Romney's remarks "stirring and inspiring."

One reader from the nation's Capitol suggested that newspapers should reimburse Romney for his expense. Romney's views should be published on the opinion pages of all American newspapers, he said.

Many are asking Romney to lead an organization to revitalize American politics. But Romney, 84, has no ambition to lead the movement. In fact, it's because he is not a candidate with a personal agenda that gives him credibility, he believes.

"This is not a one-man affair. I have no plans to take on leadership. I'm hoping leadership will emerge," he said.

His goal: that Americans become personally motivated to network, organize and reach consensus on vital issues. When politics are returned to the majority of Americans, then the special interests that control Washington, D.C., will lose power and America's stability will be restored, he said.

"There could be enough involvement in this movement for an independent candidate for the U.S. presidency to emerge," he said. "People may also form an independent coalition that could be vastly influential and change history."

"America's Future Hangs by a Thread" - that's the headline on his letter to Americans. To Romney, this is not exaggerated rhetoric. He earnestly believes that Americans are sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

To remedy the country's ills, Americans must look within themselves, not without, he said.

The crisis that the auto industry faces is a timely example. Romney was voted Man of the Year by the Associated Press four consecutive years (1957-1961) when he led American Motors and developed the first economy car - the Rambler.

"The auto industry itself in this country is responsible for what has happened. The excessive salaries and bonuses of managers of auto companies are completely indefensible, out-of-hand. Managers have become greedy. Unions, managers, workers all need to cooperate.

"While Americans were moving away from cooperation, the Japanese came along with team work and edged ahead. There is some unfairness in trading between the two countries, but Americans need to look to themselves for solutions."

Romney continues active involvement on the Points of Light Foundation and the National Community Service board, both appointments by President Bush. From this perspective, he has heard testimonies from people representing all aspects of America. The first reaction of most Americans to a problem is: "What is the government going to do to solve this?" Instead, Americans should ask, "What can I do to solve this?"

To get public input, Romney is meeting with citizens in Washington, D.C., this week, then plans to meet with Utahns on a date to be announced.