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George Romney sees America as a four-legged chair in danger of toppling. Two of the legs - government and the economy - have exploded. The spiritual and voluntarism legs are weaker than they used to be.

They must be strengthened, cautioned Romney, former three-term governor of Michigan, chief executive officer of American Motors, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and one-time presidential candidate."The least recognized, least utilized, least understood is the fourth leg, voluntarism," he said. "If government's going to be successful, they'd better strengthen this sector of society and better do what they can to strengthen the spiritual area.

"Volunteers are the most effective and least costly way of solving problems. But the effort to organize volunteers can only be effective if government does it on nonpartisan and bipartisan levels."

Romney was the the keynote speaker at the Governor's Conference on Voluntarism, hosted in Park City Tuesday by the Commission on National and Community Service (AmeriCorps).

Romney praised Utah as a leader in economics and in voluntarism but warned that nations and states both have a hard time maintaining their positions when they've achieved great success and prosperity. The challenge is to "see if we can do what no other great nation has ever done: remain great."

He called on Americans to "mobilize in peacetime" by volunteering time and talent to solve problems.

"Utah still has a foundation stronger than other states. It is possible to become a model for other states, if it will. The problems we face are a result of the magnitude of our success. Unless we put in place programs and structures to deal with success, we will have a hard time facing the major downturns that follow."

This nation's internal domestic problems are more destructive and divisive than the Civil War was, Romney said, citing murder, poverty statistics, dependence on government programs and more. "It's obvious we have vandals within."

The solution, he said, is to recognize the four things that set America apart and made it great in the first place: It was founded on spiritual values. Founders emphasized "we the people" in creating a different form of government. As they faced problems, they tried to solve them. And the spiritual foundation set up economic success.

"Since the Depression, presidents have focused on trying to solve social problems in this country through government and money," said Romney. "It hasn't worked."

The result? America sees parents who are not prepared to care for their children and children who are not being well educated. "We're living high off the hog as a result of borrowing money and mortgaging the future. We're the greatest debtor nation in the world . . . standing on economic stilts.

"We have a leg here we can build on, but we're not doing it adequately. . . . Our attitude changed. It was what can we do about it. It has changed to what's the government going to do about it. Well, unless government can get people thinking about what we can do about it, they're going to fail, too."