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UPDATED: April 12, 2015, at 5:00 p.m.
Former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke about the importance of experience in the private sector, the 2016 presidential campaign, and his time as a student at Harvard Law School during a public question and answer session at the Law School Friday.
Law School Dean Martha L. Minow joined Romney on stage and questioned him on topics ranging from modern-day political polarization to finding a work-life balance. She later handed the microphone over to members of the crowd in a packed Milstein East Hall.
Romney graduated from the Law School in 1975 and Harvard Business School in 1974.
Discussing his own career and path to public service, Romney emphasized the value of experience in the private sector.
“It is not that hard to move from the private sector to the public sector,” he said. “It’s probably harder to go the other way, but in the private sector the experience you have...that skill, that knowledge can be translatable into the governmental sector quite easily, and you can make a real contribution coming in with perspective skills that many of the people there don’t have, because they haven’t been in the private sector.”
Romney also reflected on his experience as a student at the Law School. He said that he had worried he would not do well at the school, but maintained that his Harvard education proved valuable during his wide-ranging career in public and private service.
“I don’t know that Harvard Law School is the place to give you, if you will, a textbook of law that you can then follow through your career. It is instead an approach to finding answers to difficult issues, whether legal or business in nature, that has helped me most in my career,” Romney said.
“Thank you for that,” Minow said.
Romney also discussed the field for the 2016 presidential campaign, in particular the candidates for the Republican nomination. Romney, who has run for president twice before in the Republican party, reportedly considered a third attempt for the White House, but ultimately decided not to run again.
When asked what advice he has for candidates running in 2016 in the Republican party, Romney said he has cautioned candidates in their approach to policy questions.
“A number of them have been kind enough to either come by and see me or give me a call, and ask me that question,” he said. “And I’ve talked to them about policies. One of the things I’ve mentioned to them... [is] be very careful in the policies you adopt so they cannot be demagogued into saying ‘we’re the party of the rich.’ We know that’s what they’re going to hit us with, whoever our nominee is.”
Later in the discussion, Romney referred to the controversy over the tax rate he paid during the presidential campaign. He said that his tax rate “was as low as I possibly could make it,” adding, “Anyone who pays more taxes than they are legally required to pay probably should be disqualified” to laughter from the crowd.
Though Romney said the hardest part of the campaign was losing, he still said he recommends the race, calling it an “exhilarating experience.”
“If you get the chance to run for president, do it. It’s great,” he said.
—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.
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