Romney Delivers Patriotic Speech in South Dakota, Recounts Derek Parra Friendship

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – For the first time this campaign cycle, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney this evening evoked one of his favorite stories, about Olympic speed skater Derek Parra’s patriotism, during a keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce.

Romney, drawing on many of his usual campaign talking points, used his relationship with Parra to illustrate how he believes that having “faith in America” will help us “overcome extraordinary things.”

“There is a love of America and a passion for this country that burns in the hearts of our citizens,” said Romney to a crowd of nearly 2,000. “The great challenges we have we will overcome if we can draw on that passion and conviction of the greatness and goodness of America.

“And we have leaders who will tell the truth and live with integrity, and who by virtue of their life experiences know how to lead and where to lead America,” he said. “And I very much want to be one of those leaders, with your help.”

Parra, who won both silver and gold medals in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, for which Romney served as the CEO of the organizing committee, was a staple of Romney’s repertoire during his last bid for the White House. Parra has been a longtime supporter of Romney’s and has already contributed money to the former Massachusetts’ governor’s presidential campaign this cycle.

Tonight, Romney recounted the story of when he chose Parra to be one of eight athletes to carry into the opening ceremony the American flag that had been at Ground Zero during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Parra later told Romney that it was the most meaningful moments of his Olympic games.

“I’ve seen throughout my life the power of the American spirit,” said Romney.

Romney quickly segued from his love of America into a harsh criticism of Washington, telling the audience, “I know that sometimes it feels like Washington doesn’t like you very much … like all the time, right?

“I love you, I love what you’re doing,” said Romney. “This economy has had a hard time rebooting because Washington doesn’t understand that Washington isn’t the answer it’s the problem.”

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