Former Massachusetts Gov. , and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, waves as he takes the stage prior to speaking to at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. , Friday, March 15, 2013. (AP)
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- It wasn't exactly a hero's welcome, but Mitt Romney received a heartfelt and enthusiastic reception from conservative activists Friday afternoon.
In his first public speech since losing to President Barack Obama in November, the former Republican presidential nominee said thank you to those who supported him and tried to push him over the top.
"Of course, I left the race disappointed that I didn't win," Romney said as scattered boos echoed from the Conservative Political Action Conference audience.
He recounted some of the many people he and wife Ann met during the campaign, including single mothers and hardworking fathers.
"It's fashionable in some circles to be pessimistic about America," Romney said. "I utterly reject pessimism."
He praised a nation that, despite its hegemonic power, has not used its capabilities for revenge or resources, but that has been "so often used to liberate others."
"As someone who just lost the last election, I'm probably not the best one to chart the course for the next one," Romney said, but urged conservatives to look to the 30 Republican governors in the U.S. as success stories for the future -- particularly those in blue or purple states.
"I'm sorry I won't be your president, but I will be your coworker and I'll work shoulder-to-shoulder alongside you," Romney said. "I want to thank you again for your support and help along the journey."