Romney, Searching and Earnest, Set His Path in '60s

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In December 1968, Mitt Romney returned home from a Mormon mission in France to find a changed country.

While assassinations, race riots, sit-ins and marches transformed his generation, Mr. Romney spent more than two years cloistered in a strict regimen of prayer and proselytizing.

The missionaries were discouraged from indulging in newspapers, radio, television or phone calls home. They spent twelve hours a day knocking on doors, often ending up defending the Vietnam War or American race relations against tirades by the French. Mr. Romney was so removed from the tumult at home that he was surprised to learn that his father, George Romney, had turned against the war while campaigning for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.

“There had been this whole revolution while we were gone,” recalled Dane McBride, a close friend from the mission. “While we had gone from being adolescents to grown-ups with a lot of responsibility, our peers — from our perspective — were just tearing down the country, becoming dangerously childish.” He added, “It just seemed deplorable.”

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