She’s still a few weeks shy of her 25th birthday and only three years into her congressional career. But Iowa Republican Steve King has given House staffer Sarah Stevens the ultimate vote of confidence: naming her chief of staff.

So began the Sept. 15 Roll Call article “Steve King Crowns 24-Year-Old Queen of the Hill.”

Stevens may be the youngest top aide on Capitol Hill, but she’s well-prepared for the job. She’s already worked as King’s press assistant, press secretary and communications director. But her grounding in how Washington works—and how to fight for conservative principles and policies in Congress—can be traced back to her senior year in college, when she interned with Heritage through Liberty University’s Washington Fellowship program.

In 2016, Heritage’s Young Leaders Program will welcome over 190 college students to work should- to-shoulder with our researchers, legal scholars, and communications and marketing professionals. In addition to lectures and study programs led by Heritage scholars, they had the opportunity to hear from foreign leaders, Members of Congress, and leading political scientists.

Our intern program shapes and sharpens promising young conservatives so the rising generation can help reclaim America as a land “where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.” But Heritage is also committed to “missionary work”—introducing young people to conservative principles, regardless of where they may be on the ideological spectrum.

In 2015, our Young Leaders Program hosted briefings for 62 groups of high-schoolers, college students, and young professionals. And our Strategic Outreach team spoke at more than 100 on-campus events at colleges and universities throughout the country. They provided a principled, conservative voice on issues of the day—a voice all too rarely heard in today’s rigidly “progressive” quads.

Heritage helped spread the message of freedom well beyond our shores, too. One of the year’s great successes was the Jerusalem Policy Summit, organized by Heritage Senior Advisor Joel Anand Samy. The summit focused on the value of rule of law, a strong defense and economic freedom. Israeli media coverage was extensive.

The Heritage Congressional Fellows (HCF) Program is a year-long, 24-installment lecture and discussion series hosted by our Center for Principles and Politics and our Policy Promotion team. It gives junior congressional staffers a firm grounding in First Principles and how they apply to modern policy debates. Last year, the program attracted staff from more than 130 congressional offices, with attendance averaging nearly 70 participants per session. In October, the program graduated 57 legislative and communications staffers. This year’s class is just as impressive.

For senior Hill staffers committed to advancing the conservative agenda, Heritage—in conjunction with Hillsdale College—offers continuing education via the Madison Fellows Program. Madison Fellows meet monthly for roundtable discussions with national policy, political, and opinion leaders. In 2016, over 125 people will participate in the program.

The Heritage Foundation runs the George C. Marshall Fellowship program to prepare selected young professionals—both on the Hill and off —to fill future leadership roles in national security and foreign policy. Running from March to September, the program incorporates lectures, field trips, and social networking events. Highlights included a two-day simulation of the Yalta Conference (to practice international negotiating skills) and the Gettysburg Staff Ride (to learn the historic battle’s lessons on strategic leadership). The program graduated 16 Fellows in 2015.

At year’s end, our Policy Outreach team was poised to launch a new leadership development program for 2016. Designed for senior staff on Capitol
Hill, the Feulner-Weyrich Fellowship Program will offer advanced lessons on policy, process, and politics from veterans of the Conservative Movement. Fifteen staff members graduated from this exciting new program in July.

In addition to the formal development programs, Policy Services and Outreach also arranges ad hoc policy briefings for Members of Congress, their policy directors, and legislative assistants throughout the year. Marching to the tempo of what’s happening on the floors of the House and Senate, we conducted more than 200 of these one- on-one or small-group meetings in 2015.

Through our Young Leaders Program, Heritage will continue to educate young people in conservative principles to educate the next cohort of conservative leaders and protect freedom for future generations.

In announcement Wednesday morning about his proposals for rebuilding America’s military, Donald Trump twice cited Heritage’s research on national defense — basing key proposals on our published recommendations.

PROPOSAL: Mr. Trump will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies…

PROPOSAL: Mr. Trump will build an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, which the Heritage Foundation has shown to be needed to execute current missions.

Both the Marines and Air Force recommendations are drawn from Heritage’s Index of Military Strength.

Numerous news sites (CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and CSPAN to name a few) were quick to pick up on this and point out Trump’s use of Heritage research.

Do you think America needs to rebuild its defenses?


Robert and Nancy Bruce of Boerne, Texas have been faithful supporters of Heritage for more than 23 years.  Nancy, a commercial airline pilot, has been a Captain with Southwest Airlines for 30 years and was the fourth female captain ever hired by the company—a trailblazer in every respect. Bob, also a pilot, is a distinguished business leader in the aviation industry as well as broadcasting.

They’ve seen Heritage evolve into the leading conservative institution it is today and recently made the generous decision to make Heritage the beneficiaries of their individual life insurance policies.

We caught up with Bob recently to ask how he came about his conservative perspective on life and what led them both to leave such meaningful legacy gifts in support of Heritage’s work.

This is their story.

Heritage:  How did you first get involved with Heritage?

Bob:  I used to subscribe to Heritage’s Policy Review magazine and took an interest in Heritage’s research, especially since I was writing to our state representatives. Not long afterwards, Heritage advertised a cruise where we could get to know key Heritage people better and engage in conservative policy discussions.  Sometimes I used to think I was alone, howling at the moon, but I came away knowing that I wasn’t a lone conservative.  It was a wonderful experience, and we’ve been with Heritage ever since.  I’ve come to realize that to the extent that we’ve been able to make things better despite the challenges, I credit Heritage, and on the political side, Heritage Action.

Heritage: Were there any formative experiences growing up that have made you the conservative you are today?

Bob: I can’t say I remember either one of my parents taking me over their knee and extolling the virtues of the Constitution, but my experiences on campus in the 60s and being on the other side of the radical Left made an impression on me.  Unfortunately, we have one of their offspring in the White House, and the rest are running the Federal agencies. It’s why our country has so many problems. They and their children, who are now in their 40s and 50s, are taking over the government.  This is also what’s happening in public education.

Heritage:  Speaking of education, we know this is an issue you’re very involved with. What concerns you most? 

Bob: There’s no discipline in schools, no dress code, they engage in social passing, and they leave everything to the parents. That’s not the way it was when I was in school. When it came to discipline, manners, and our demeanor, our teachers and coaches held us to the highest standards. More importantly, they could enforce those standards because they were supported by our parents

As an adult, if ever there were a defining moment in my path to conservatism, it’s probably when I started paying property taxes, which is how we fund education here in Texas. I was about 10 years out of high school and hosted a program called Vocational Office Education or “VOE” which connected businesses with students hoping to hone their skills. I’ll never forget it. We had one student in the morning, and one in the afternoon. These girls were decent, nice, and very polite, but they couldn’t spell simple four letter words. I was astonished. They were seniors getting ready to graduate! This was my first introduction to our failing public school education. That was 1974, and I’ve been battling to improve the system ever since.  It’s hard to stomach so much in property taxes going toward a failing system. If we could sue the system for failure to deliver on a product we’re paying so much for, we might actually get somewhere. In the meantime, promoting school choice and educational vouchers is the only logical answer. This is something Heritage has worked so hard on and made tremendous progress.  The system is not going to fix itself, and Heritage knows that.

Heritage: What inspired you to make a legacy gift to Heritage? 

Bob: The permanence of it, the lasting value a gift like this represents. When I think about some of the other donors who have given so much more, I have deep admiration for what they’ve done and get kind of choked up about it–so wonderful.  Heritage has got several buildings now, rooms for interns—it just continues to grow because everyone who has given so freely. We wanted to do something for Heritage, too.

Heritage: Why did you choose to make a legacy gift via your insurance policies?

Bob: I remember being at a Heritage event and seeing “Heritage Legacy Society” ribbons on some of the members’ name badges. I knew what the Heritage Legacy Society meant—putting Heritage in your will and such—but then I got to talking to some of these folks, and I started to realize there were more options than just putting Heritage in our wills. Some members had included Heritage on their insurance policies, and I thought, “Hey, we can do that!” I spoke to Nancy about it, and she—who tends to be more cautious about these things—had no hesitation whatsoever.  We were doing fine and didn’t really need our insurance policies like we once had. It was the perfect way for us to make a special gift to support what we believe in.

Find out more about making a legacy gift to Heritage.

Paul Sukkar, a Heritage intern from Lebanon, shares his story below of the impact Heritage has had on him.

This spring, Paul worked in Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis, focusing on issues like the economic costs of excessive licensure requirements and the impact of raising the minimum wage.

Eventually, he wants to go back to Lebanon and try to advance liberty in its political system. As he puts it, “At the core of the American dream, I believe, are values that are universal and inherently necessary for freedom anywhere in the world.”

I grew up in Lebanon and graduated from the Lebanese American University. My parents instilled in me an appreciation for America, but it wasn’t until I began reading about the work of Jim Phillips (Heritage’s senior research fellow for Middle Eastern a airs) that I became familiar with Heritage itself.

When I found out about the internship program Heritage offered, I knew it would be a great fit. I loved that at Heritage, I could delve deep and learn the why of what my conservative instincts had led me to believe.

I keep finding that Americans born here typically don’t understand what a privilege that is! I like to think that my understanding of how fortunate they are, from someone who wasn’t born here and isn’t a citizen, is hopefully rubbing off a little—on people I meet here, and especially on the other American-born interns I now call friends.

As part of Heritage’s commitment to educate candidates about conservative solutions, national security expert James Carafano visited Donald Trump’s headquarters last week to brief the candidate and his team on national security and foreign policy issues.

Heritage makes these briefings and our published policy research available to all candidates who request them.

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