To: Mr. Willard Mitt Romney
Candidate for the Presidency of the United States
Dear Mr. Romney:
Your and my time as students at Stanford University overlapped between 1964 and 1968. You and I did not know each other at Stanford, but it now appears that our paths certainly crossed: I, too, was a protestor, but I protested against the Vietnam War and for civil rights and international human rights.
When the Stanford Sigma Chi Fraternity recruited me to become a member in 1965, the national governors of that fraternity kicked the Stanford Chapter out of the national membership. I am African-American. The Sigma Chi elders refused to integrate the fraternity. Many other white-only fraternities, private clubs and religious denominations expressed solidarity with the Stanford Sigma Chi chapter and abolished their anti-black, anti-Jewish and anti-woman traditions.
My beliefs, my experiences and my commitments then inform who I am todayas one would have to believe yours do as well. I am a businessman, father and grandfather who is unequivocally committed to human rights, workers’ rights and especially the women’s rights that your political party is trying to destroy.
This year it was revealed that at Stanford you were a “protestor” for the Vietnam War.
You protested in favor of the defining war of our generation but you refused to actually fight in it. The record shows that you cheered the conscription of our fellow countrymen as you stood uselessly on the sidelines with pro-war signs held high. And in the most despicable and unforgivable act of cowardice for an able-bodied war advocate: You refused to go. You proclaimed that North Vietnam was a threat that justified the lives of our generation, but you felt yourself to be too precious to risk losing yours. Mr. Romney, that is shameful, disgraceful and outrageous.
Your five able-bodied sons supported the Iraq War. But neither they, your father, nor any of your Romney grandfathers has ever served in the military defense of this nation.
I am humbled and honored that Stanford students have twice in the past 10 years invited me to campus to present talks about the human rights reforms that we accomplished at Stanford in the 1960s; I was also a co-founder of the Stanford Black Student Union. The religious canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in which you were an elder during this same period, was grounded in so-called “edicts from God,” which proclaimed me, other people of color, Jews and certain other non-Mormons, as sub-humans.
Even so, the fact that you were an elder in this aggressive belief system would be a moot point if you were not in 2012 enthusiastically leading a political party whose social and governing policy is to deny women sovereignty over their own bodies and promote racial bigotry and the abuse of workers.
What is the evidence that you have any degree of the kind of character that American citizens look for in their president?
The United States represents the very highest aspirations of humanity. Since 1965, there has been for the first time in human history a society in which the rights of all are equally protected, as inscribed in the sacred text of our 14th Amendment. Blacks, women, newly immigrated citizens of color, gays and all previously marginalized groups now have expanded access to political leadership, business opportunities, cultural influence and employment appropriate to our skills.
Despite the best efforts of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Donald Trump, Jack Welch, Newt Gingrich, Paul Ryan and others of your political persuasion, the United States will continue moving inexorably forward. We will lead the world as a society that is racially, ethnically and gender-diverse under the courageous, ethical and visionary leadership of President Barack Hussein Obama.
Keni Washington ‘68