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Edwin J. Feulner's leadership as President of The Heritage Foundation has transformed the think tank from a small policy shop into America's powerhouse of conservative ideas.
Under Feulner, Heritage's presence in Washington grew from a nine-member staff working out of a rented office on Capitol Hill in 1977 to a 220-person organization occupying two office buildings near the U.S. Capitol today.
"This has been a conscious goal of The Heritage Foundation—to be a permanent Washington presence," Feulner wrote in the introduction to one of his books, The March of Freedom. "We have set out to make conservative ideas not just respectable but mainstream. To set the terms of national policy debate. To offer not a lament for a lost America, but positive, practical, free market alternatives to the failed liberal policies of the old order."
Feulner's work in the conservative movement throughout his life earned him praise from a range of individuals including Heritage donors and U.S. Presidents.
"By building an organization dedicated to ideas and their consequences, he has helped to shape the policy of our Government. His has been a voice of reason and values in service to his country and the cause of freedom around the world," read the citation of the Presidential Citizens Medal, given to Feulner on Jan. 18, 1989, by President Ronald Reagan.
Feulner's leadership was recognized twice in 2007. First, GQ magazine named him one of "Washington's 50 most powerful" as voted by the city's "top think tankers, congressional aides and political journalists." And in November that year, the London Telegraph named him one of the 100 most influential conservatives in America.
Feulner first joined The Heritage Foundation as a founding Trustee in 1973. He later became President in 1977, Heritage's fourth in four years. After accepting the job, Feulner was determined to chart a new course for the struggling think tank.
He did not want to lead a group of academics that would write studies, place them on a shelf and hope someone important would read them. Instead, Feulner decided that Heritage would operate like a business that expected progress from its analysts and results from their policy studies. Heritage would achieve these results by creating timely, concise studies and aggressively marketing them to Congress, policymakers and the media.
This "briefcase test" concept became a model for other think tanks to follow. In fact, Heritage's success has led many liberals to try to create a "liberal Heritage Foundation" to counter the think tank's influence. "[Conservatives] worked on it for 30 years and they've got it," former President Bill Clinton complained in a 2003 appearance on NBC's Today show. "They've got everything from The Heritage Foundation, the sympathetic newspapers, to sympathetic cable programs ?"
This didn't happen by accident. Feulner works tirelessly. He travels more than 150,000 miles a year, crisscrossing the United States and the globe to meet with leaders and help spread the ideals of individual liberty, economic freedom, rule of law and family values.
"Although his ways are entirely unassuming, one pauses ? to wonder how Ed Feulner manages as he does," wrote National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr. in an introduction to The Power of Ideas, a 1997 book on Heritage's history. "It helps that he disposes of the requisite biological and temperamental attributes—the capacity to go many hours without sleep, to travel endlessly attending to caseloads of work, to endure a day of meetings that begin at breakfast and end at midnight."
Feulner's schedule is often full because of the many hats he has worn over the years: He is the former President and currently serves as the Treasurer of the Mont Pelerin Society; he has served as Trustee and former Chairman of the Board of The Intercollegiate Studies Institute; Member of the Board of the National Chamber Foundation; a Board Member of the Institut d' Etude Politique; and member of the Board of Trustees of Regis University in Denver.
He is a longtime officer and director of three grant-making foundations: the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Aequus Institute and the Thomas A. Roe Foundation.
Feulner is the former President of the Philadelphia Society, and past Director of the Sequoia Bank, the Council for National Policy, the Acton Institute, the International Republican Institute, the American Council in Germany, the Lehrman Institute and George Mason University.
He served as a member of the Gingrich-Mitchell Congressional U.N. Reform Task Force (2005) and on the Congressional Commission on International Financial Institutions ("Meltzer Commission") from 1999-2000. He was the Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform ("Kemp Commission") from 1995-1996. He also was Chairman of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy (1982-91), served as the Public Member (Ambassador) of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament in New York, and a consultant for domestic policy to President Reagan, and an adviser to several government departments and agencies. He speaks frequently both in the United States and abroad, and has been awarded 11 honorary degrees, been declared a Benefactor of the University of Edinburgh, and has received honors from the governments of Taiwan and South Korea.
But his heart belongs to Heritage – and to the thousands of colleagues and supporters he has worked with over the decades. "I can't stress it enough," Feulner said in 2002 on his 25th anniversary as president. "If you don't have the right people, you won't have the success Heritage has had over the years."
Edwin John Feulner Jr. was born Aug. 12, 1941, in Chicago to Helen Joan Feulner and Edwin J. Feulner Sr., who owned a real estate firm. After growing up in Elmhurst, Ill., Feulner attended Regis University in Denver. There he read Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater's best-selling manifesto, The Conscience of A Conservative and Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, which influenced his thinking and the direction of his life.
He graduated Regis with a bachelor's degree in English, and received an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1964. He later attended Georgetown University and the London School of Economics, and then earned a doctorate degree at the University of Edinburgh.
Feulner began his Washington career as Public Affairs Fellow for the Center for Strategic Studies (now the Center for Strategic and International Studies) and at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he wrote on subjects such as trade with the Soviet Union. He later became a confidential assistant to Rep. and later Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird (R-WI). Afterward, Feulner became Chief of Staff to Rep. Philip M. Crane (R-IL). Before joining Heritage as its President, Feulner was Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee.
Feulner is the author of seven books: Getting America Right (2006), Leadership for America (2000), Intellectual Pilgrims (1999), The March of Freedom (1998), Conservatives Stalk the House (1983), Looking Back (1981) and Trading with the Communists (1968).
He was the editor of U.S. – Japan Mutual Security: The Next Twenty Years, China – The Turning Point, and a contributor to 10 other books and numerous journals, reviews and magazines. Feulner also was publisher of Heritage's Policy Review magazine from 1977 until 2001, when Heritage transferred the publication to the Hoover Institution. He was the co-founder and Chairman of the Web site Townhall.com, which was established to coordinate online activities of dozens of conservative organizations and columnists.
Feulner also pens a weekly column that appears regularly in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and dozens more newspapers and Web sites across the country.
He and his wife, Linda, have two grown children, Edwin J. Feulner III and Emily V. Lown, and three grandchildren. They live in Alexandria, Va.