For Edwin J. Feulner, as for so many others, the path to leadership began with ISI.
Feulner has made a remarkable impact as founder and longtime president of The Heritage Foundation. During his thirty-six years as president, he transformed Heritage from a tiny policy shop to the nation’s most influential think tank. For his accomplishments, he has won the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Bradley Prize, and ISI’s own Charles Hoeflich Lifetime Achievement Award.
Feulner has never forgotten the pivotal role ISI played in his life and career. In the early 1960s, two ISI-affiliated professors at Colorado’s Regis College pointed their bright young student to ISI, and a lifelong relationship was formed. The ISI conferences he attended were “game changers,” Feulner recalls. At the 1962 summer school, he met Phil Crane, a dynamic young professor (and future U.S. congressman). At an ISI seminar that December, Feulner was introduced to Richard V. Allen, who had helped establish the Center for Strategic and International Studies (and would later be Ronald Reagan’s national security advisor). Crane and Allen became his friends and mentors.
In 1965 ISI awarded Feulner one of its first Richard M. Weaver Fellowships for graduate study. He set off for the London School of Economics for what he now calls “two of the most memorable terms of my life.” There he attended lectures by such towering figures as economists F. A. Hayek and Peter Bauer and political theorist Kenneth Minogue. It was the education of a lifetime.
“ISI changed my whole life trajectory,” Feulner says. “It taught me that ideas have a permanent role to play in America’s political course and in the whole life of the American citizenry.”
But he goes further. “ISI,” he observes, “is the keeper of the flame, the foundation upon which every other organization in the conservative movement rests. Those of us involved in the policy process are basically trying to hold our fingers in the dike. But if the dike is ever going to be rebuilt, it has to be done through ideas—through better thinking on the campuses. That’s where ISI comes in. The role ISI plays is absolutely critical to the future of the Republic.”