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The Heritage Foundation’s 35th Anniversary: A History of Achievements

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute--a think tank--whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

We communicate our message to our primary audiences: members of Congress, key congressional staff members, policymakers in the executive branch, the news media, and the academic and public policy communities.

Heritage has made great strides for the conservative movement during our 35-year history. We will build on that progress in the years to come. In an effort to do so, this year marked the beginning of our Leadership for America campaign. As part of that effort, Heritage partnered with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to launch an educational campaign about conservative principles called "What Would Reagan Do?"

As we celebrate this special 35th anniversary in 2008, here are some of the highlights of Heritage achievements and memorable moments throughout the years.

1973    The Heritage Foundation opens its doors.
The Heritage Foundation is founded in order to deliver compelling and persuasive research to Congress providing facts, data, and sound arguments on behalf of conservative principles.

1977    Building the conservative movement.
Ed Feulner becomes president and sets up a new senior management staff. He also creates the Resource Bank to take on the liberal establishment and forge a national network of conservative policy groups and experts. Over the years, the Resource Bank grows to encompass more than 2,200 policy experts and 475 policy groups in the U.S. and other countries.

1980    Mandate for Leadership.
Heritage's 1,093-page public policy blueprint, Mandate for Leadership: Policy Management in a Conservative Administration, becomes the policy bible of the newly elected Reagan administration on everything from taxes and regulation to crime and national defense. The new president gives copies to every member of his Cabinet at their first meeting. The upshot: Nearly two-thirds of the 2,000 recommendations contained in Mandate were adopted by the Reagan administration.

1981    A tax cut revolution.
Heritage's Mandate for Leadership called for "An across-the-board reduction in marginal personal income tax rates in each bracket of about 10 percent in 1981, with similar rate reductions in 1982 and 1983." The Reagan administration not only followed Mandate's lead, but it appointed Heritage's Norman Ture, the Mandate author who penned the chapter on tax policy, as treasury secretary for tax and economic affairs -- a new position suggested by Mandate. The tax cut that eventually passed -- a marginal rate reduction of 25 percent over three years -- wiped out America's economic "malaise," producing the biggest economic boom in U.S. history.

1982    Protecting America.
Heritage publishes the first comprehensive, detailed study outlining a missile defense system to defend the Unites States from nuclear missile attack. The landmark study is presented to President Reagan by Heritage President Ed Feulner in a White House meeting. Six months later, Reagan makes his historic speech calling for a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to protect America.

1983    Building a global presence.
In conjunction with its 10th anniversary, Heritage formally dedicates its new eight-story headquarters on Capitol Hill. It also establishes the Asian Studies Center to serve as a permanent and dynamic research program aimed at building stronger relations between the United States and Asian–Pacific countries. Nine years later, Heritage opens an office in Moscow.

1985    Winning the Cold War.
Within the first 10 minutes of the Reagan-Gorbachev Geneva summit, Gorbachev criticizes a briefing book prepared by Heritage. President Reagan responds, "I read it and liked it." Later, Gorbachev complained to the Supreme Soviet that Reagan stood fast on SDI because of the "mandate" from America's extreme right wing, "represented by their ideological headquarters, the Heritage Foundation."

1987    Rolling back the liberal welfare state.
Heritage's public policy plan Out of the Poverty Trap: A Conservative Strategy for Welfare Reform provides a detailed outline for welfare reform. This helped set the stage for the 1996 reforms that changed the entitlement mentality in America, moving thousands off the dole and toward personal responsibility.

1988    Educating conservative candidates.
Heritage releases the first edition of Issues: The Candidate's Briefing Book. This comprehensive guide to domestic, foreign, and defense policy issues helps conservative candidates frame the debate. In 2000, House Majority Leader Dick Armey says, "If candidates read nothing else, they should read Issues.... No candidate should run without it."

1990    Supporting freedom.
Ronald Reagan addresses Heritage's Annual Board Meeting and says, "You [were] an invaluable resource on key issues such as tax cuts, reducing government spending, SDI, supporting freedom in Grenada, Nicaragua, Eastern Europe--wherever I needed Heritage, you were there."

1992    Fighting for health care reform.
The Heritage Consumer Choice Health Plan becomes the leading free-market alternative to President Clinton's government-oriented proposal. Nine years later, Heritage establishes the Center for Health Policy Studies to fight for reforms based on consumer choice.

1994    The Contract with America.
Heritage provides the intellectual ammunition to conservatives during the 1994 elections on issues such as welfare reform, tax cuts, and congressional reform. This leads to historic election victories for conservatives, and Heritage ideas become a major part of "The Contract With America."

1995    Educating Members of Congress.
Heritage hosts a New Member Conference to educate the freshman class. Fifty-six Members of Congress attend while Harvard University's competing conference is canceled due to lack of interest. On the first day of the new session, the House reforms 15 rules: 13 of these rule reforms had been recommended by Heritage. Over the 100 days of the new Congress, Heritage analysts testify over 100 times.

1995    Getting our message to cyberspace.
Heritage establishes a Web presence with heritage.org and launches the tremendously popular Townhall.com. Conservative news, information, and commentary are now directly accessible to millions of Americans.

1996    Restoring the role of religion.
Heritage publicizes its most popular paper ever, "Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability," which summarizes the scientific data showing that the practice of religion has a dramatic impact on reducing teenage pregnancy, drug use, suicide rates, illegitimacy, and other pathologies. The paper is reported in hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the country and ignites a call for restoring respect for religion in America. Seven years later, Heritage establishes the Center for Religion and Civil Society.

1996    Reforming welfare.
Welfare reform is passed, based on a plan devised by Heritage experts. Liberals predict it will throw millions into poverty and leave children "sleeping on grates." Instead, more than five million individuals leave welfare and find work; child poverty drops; and black child poverty falls for the first time in 25 years, plunging to historic lows.

1997    Ending the liberal monopoly on government data.
Heritage establishes the Center for Data Analysis to give congressional conservatives better analysis on tax and spending legislation in the fight for fundamental tax reform.
Promoting freedom through economic prosperity. The Wall Street Journal becomes co-publisher of Heritage's Index of Economic Freedom, first published in 1995. This annual ranking of nations measures economic freedom and prosperity, proving that more freedom leads to more prosperity.

1997    Leadership for America.
Heritage begins its two-year celebration marking its 25th anniversary. Conservative leaders such as Lady Margaret Thatcher, William Buckley and Bill Bennett speak at Heritage events around the nation.

1999    Influencing the media.
With added support from the 25th anniversary campaign, Heritage inaugurates the Center for Media and Public Policy to provide media training for Heritage staff and offer courses in computer-assisted reporting to journalists. Mike Causey of The Washington Post states, "The Heritage Foundation is second to none in its ability to deal with the media."

2000    Defending the Constitution.
Heritage establishes the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, chaired by Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Ed Meese. The Center promotes a greater appreciation for the role of the Constitution in modern American democracy.

2000    Reforming education.
Heritage releases a groundbreaking book, No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools," asserting that better results can be achieved through high standards and expectations, reinforced by a culture of achievement. Following Heritage's suggestion, CBS's "60 Minutes" produces a season-premiere story about two of the schools profiled in No Excuses.

2001    Cutting taxes.
Heritage creates a Tax Cut Calculator for the Web site offering visitors a simple, instant way to check how Bush tax cut affects their taxes. The site proves so effective that the White House links to it, and so popular with the media and the public that an extra high-speed Internet line has to be installed.

2002    Defending America.
During the first 30 days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Heritage creates a Homeland Security Task Force and provides 250 newspaper and magazine interviews and 185 radio and television interviews. In January, the Office of Homeland Security and the Joint Chiefs of Staff review the Taskforce's comprehensive recommendations--two-thirds of which eventually are implemented.

2002    Defeating a treaty that left America vulnerable.
After a twenty-year effort by Heritage in laying the legal, technical, and policy groundwork, President Bush repeals the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, thereby clearing the way for deployment of missile defenses.

2003    Building for the next generation.
Heritage nearly doubles in size, thanks to a gift of an eight-story building adjacent to its headquarters. In addition to providing much-needed office space and a new 230-seat auditorium, the new building houses college interns who spend a semester at Heritage being introduced to the world of public policy.

2004    Getting our message to the American public.
Heritage's best-in-Washington communications and media team sets new records in arranging interviews for Heritage policy analysts in print, radio and television media, churning out commentaries that are printed in the nation's most prestigious newspapers, and marketing conservative ideas to lawmakers and congressional staff.

2005    Responding rapidly and fighting government spending.
Heritage took less than a week to produce "From Tragedy to Triumph:  Principled Solutions for Rebuilding Lives and Communities" -- a Marshall Plan for the Gulf Coast in response to Hurricane Katrina. White House officials and Congress quickly embraced many of its recommendations.  And its "pork-for-relief" suggestion to divert funds earmarked for wasteful pork-barrel projects to gulf reconstruction projects quickly became a popular cause in the online "blogosphere" and among the mainstream media – with 1,400 newspaper articles citing it in two weeks.

2007    Fighting against amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Heritage took the lead stressing the importance of enforcing the rule of law and improving border security by thwarting attempts to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. The amnesty bill, which was officially and inaccurately titled the "Secure Borders, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Reform Act of 2007," was a misguided proposal which threatened to negatively reshape America's national character.  Heritage played an active educational role in the efforts to crush this bill by offering timely and thorough research to members of Congress; building coalitions among other groups in Washington with the same goal to defeat the bill; and getting the word out through television, radio, and internet blogs on why the Amnesty bill was such a bad deal for Americans.

2008    Launching Leadership for America campaign.
This 10-year campaign is our boldest initiative since Heritage's founding in 1973. Its ultimate goal is to restore our nation's First Principles back to their rightful place at the heart of American society. To do this, we will work to recall our nation to the First Principles of liberty; to restore the primary institutions of civil society; to expand economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans; and to ensure America's national security and its respect as a world leader. Over the next ten years, we will continue to get America right once again with Leadership for America and will work to convince more Americans than ever of the rightness of our cause and the worth of our labors.