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Mark Charles: Mitt Romney vows never to apologize for US
Monday, December 19, 2011
Filed Under: Opinion
More on: apologies, mark charles, mitt romney
A few weeks ago Mitt Romney released a campaign video in which he boldly stated that, as President, he would "never apologize for the United States of America." I would like to ask him to clarify those remarks for the nearly four million Native Americans citizens of this country.

A few years ago, the Canadian Prime Minister issued a public apology to the First Nations people of Canada. That apology stemmed from the injustice of residential schools that the First Nations people suffered at the hand of the European immigrants who entered their land and aggressively laid claim to it.

This apology did not solve the problems between Canada's immigrant population and the indigenous peoples of that land. Nor was this apology in any way an ending point. But it was a necessary and important step to take.

Reconciliation is a journey, a process, a rebuilding of trust. It is not accomplished in a single action, nor does it necessarily have a clearly defined ending point. Reconciliation is a journey to restore a relationship, and apologizing is an essential part of that journey.

I am 41 years old, and I have been married for 13 years with 3 children. One of the reasons my marriage is still healthy and my children still love me is because I learned a long time ago of the indispensable value of a sincere and well-timed apology.

No one is perfect. We all, at one point or another, act selfishly, arrogantly, ignorantly and even maliciously. It is a part of being human. The strongest people I have known and the most effective leaders I have followed are those who honestly acknowledge this.

I have found that the more intimate the relationship or the more elevated the role of leadership, the more necessary the ability to apologize becomes. In other words, you may be able to maintain a casual acquaintance with a co-worker without apologizing, but if your acquaintance becomes your friend and over time your friend becomes your spouse, then I am quite certain that the opportunity and the need to apologize in that relationship will present itself time and time again.

By the same token, you may be able to lead a small three-member committee to raise funds for a local charity and complete your term without having to apologize to your fellow committee members for unkind words or insensitive actions. But let’s say that same committee is successful and continues year after year, and the organization becomes increasingly dependent upon the funds you are raising.

The pressure mounts and the amount of funds raised grows exponentially. Then, again, the opportunity and need to apologize to the members on the committee, for thoughtless words spoken in haste or insensitive actions due to the growing pressure, will present itself time and time again.

The bio on Mitt Romney’s campaign website communicates that over the past 42 years he has raised a family, maintained a healthy marriage and built and led successful business ventures. With all of that experience building and maintaining those multitudes of relationships, I am willing to bet that if he were completely honest he could give a powerful exhortation on the indispensable value of a sincere and well-timed apology.

The office of the President is the most powerful, public and complex office in our land. It requires the holder to build, maintain, lead and reconcile relationships throughout our country and the world. Therefore, it baffles me that a top-tier candidate for this office would make such a seemingly shortsighted and arrogant statement that he will "never apologize for the United States of America."

Those words may score political points during a partisan debate, but they are not the words of a serious national candidate who is seeking to be a leader on the global stage.

I love our country and am proud to be an American. But I also come from the Native American community which knows first-hand that the USA is not perfect. In our short history with the United States, we have endured forced assimilation, boarding schools, stolen land, kidnapped children, relocation and, for some tribes, genocide.

Yet, there are still a great number of us who are willing to work through that dark history and strive to live proud and productive lives as citizens of this country. But we, and our communities, are still hurting. We crave reconciliation and are longing to restore this important relationship that has been broken by our country. And one would expect that at some point in the healing process, an apology would be given. Who better to deliver it than the democratically elected President of these United States?

So if the need to apologize for the USA can be found with the first people that this young country ever encountered, how can we expect to traverse the rest of our history, as well as the plethora of global relationships without encountering that need again?

Mitt Romney is a smart, well-educated man. He is campaigning to competent people. So I ask him and the rest of the 2012 Presidential candidates: Please do not insult our intelligence or your own, by making such arrogant and short-sighted statements like “I will never apologize for the United States of America.”

As I have observed and participated in the leadership process, I have concluded two things:

First, our world is run through relationships.

Second, everyone is human. We are all learning and to some extent just making it up as we go along. Crisis tends to be conveyed when leaders, media, or institutions portray themselves or others as “experts” and then act surprised or even shocked when they fail.

To err is human and the ability to give a sincere and well-timed apology is essential. Please do not let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.

Mark Charles can be reached by email at, on Twitter at Wirelesshogan and on the web at

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