Mitt Romney was faced with a crisis in July 1996. The 14-year-old daughter of Robert Gay, a partner in Romney's new venture capital firm, Bain Capital, had disappeared. As it turned out, she had attended a rave party in New York City and had become high on ecstasy. Three days later, her distraught father had no idea where she was.
Romney took immediate action. He closed down the entire firm and asked all 30 partners and employees to fly to New York to try to find Gay's daughter.
Romney set up a command center in a conference room at the LaGuardia Marriott just outside Manhattan. He hired a private detective firm to assist with the search and established a toll-free number for tips, coordinating the effort with the New York City Police Department, but he still wasn't satisfied. He raced through his Rolodex and called everyone Bain did business with in New York. He asked them to help his company find their friend's missing daughter.
The company's accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and its law firm, put up posters on street poles with a photo of the missing teenager. Cashiers at Duane Reade Pharmacies, which was owned by Bain Capital, put fliers in the bag of each shopper.
Romney and others from the Bain Capital posse trudged through every part of New York, even scouring Central Park, and talked with everyone they could - prostitutes, drug addicts - anyone who may have seen her. They also made rounds at the local nightclubs at 3 a.m., hoping someone somewhere could identify her.
The same day the Romney team came to New York, the hunt made the evening news. Television cameras showed photos of the girl and video of investment banker types prowling through Central Park.
The next day, a teenage boy she was with phoned in. He asked if there was a reward. But the boy got nervous and quickly hung up. Luckily, the police traced the call to a home in Montville Township, N.J.
Gay's daughter, when they found her in the basement of that home, was shivering through detox after a massive dose of ecstasy. Doctors later told Gay that he was indeed fortunate - his daughter probably would not have lasted another day.
"It was the most amazing thing, and I'll never forget this to the day I die," Gay says, adding of Romney's intervention, "I'm not sure we would have gotten her back without him."
It is often during a crisis that we gain insight into a person's real character. Romney's action demonstrated leadership, loyalty, and selflessness - attributes that Americans just might like to see in a president of the United States.