Romney said, if he were president, he would respond by making sure he focused on the most important priorities, not worry about getting re-elected, and reach across the aisle to build partnerships while pressuring his own party to fall in line.
But Romney said his days of running for president are over.
"It's probably someone else's turn. I've had two bites at the apple," he said, joking that maybe his wife, Ann, or their son, Josh, would make good candidates.
He said his 2012 Oval Office bid, meeting Americans and supporters, was an "amazing" experience "If you get the chance to run for president, do it" but he acknowledged that the campaign didn't do enough to recruit Latino voters.
President Barack Obama's campaign spent more money targeting Latinos, he said. It hammered Obamacare, which Romney said was popular with uninsured Latinos and, he added, distorted Romney's record on immigration reform.
"People were afraid I was going to send everyone home," he said, "round everyone up in buses and send them home."
Future candidates, he said, have to do better making their case to minority voters.
Romney said that since losing the 2012 election, he has been speaking to current and future leaders about the problems confronting America to ensure the country is as strong as it can be. The nation, he said, is competing with three other powers China, Russia and "jihadists who have the intent of collapsing other forms of government and being the last one standing."
Of those, the United States and the West are the only ones that offer freedom.
"It is essential that America and the West win this battle and, for that to happen, America must be strong. My concern is, if you look over the last 25 years, we're not gaining relative strength compared to those other two, in fact we're losing relative strength. … The implications are that freedom itself will be in jeopardy and the happiness and prosperity of our children and grandchildren and those that come beyond will be in jeopardy."
The challenges Romney outlined included the national debt, economic competitiveness, military strength, education, culture and global warming.
"A number of people, myself included, think the world is getting warmer and human activity contributes to it," Romney said. It is a global problem, with other countries polluting more than the United States, he said, but there is not a global campaign to deal with it.
Romney told students that if they want to be successful, they shouldn't focus on monetary achievements.
"If your life goal is more money, you're very much at risk of not being successful in your own eyes," he said. It's better, he advised, to focus on relationships with family and God and service to the community.
"Those have no chance associated with them, no outside elements will determine your success," Romney said. "The consequence for a happy and successful life is in your own hands."