FEULNER: Remembering Richard Scaife, a man of ideas

America owes a debt of gratitude to a financier of conservatism

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Much has been written about Richard M. Scaife since his death on July 4. It isn’t surprising. Dick was a man of high ideals and great accomplishment.

You’ll find his name prominently displayed when you walk in the front door of the Heritage Foundation, and with good reason. Dick was an early supporter of Heritage, yes. But he was also a man of ideas — personal liberty and opportunity, and freedom for all.

Dick enjoyed the give and take of policy discussions. He was a publisher and a philanthropist, but those were means to his objective: advancing the ideas he believed in.

Dick believed deeply in the superiority of the West — of our ideas, our values, our institutions and our way of life. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to stop the decline of the West.

Over the next 40 years as we worked side by side, I was awestruck about the difference Dick made for America, for freedom and for individual citizens everywhere.

A little-remembered role of Dick, the idea man and the implementer, was his service for eight years as a member of President Reagan’s Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy. I know the commitment that Dick made to these efforts, because I served alongside him as a fellow volunteer on this governmental policy board.

We traveled extensively, working with the U.S. Information Agency to promote American ideas and ideals worldwide. We advocated editorials for the Voice of America because we believed that the message of America, whether led by a Republican or a Democrat, deserved to be told in a straightforward manner.

Those who claim that Dick was somehow “out of the political mainstream” should note that his membership on the Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy included two Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings and two unanimous favorable Senate votes to confirm his membership on this elite advisory body.

Dick’s experience with the print media and with broadcasting made his expertise particularly helpful as we encouraged the launching of Radio Marti, to broadcast news and views to the people of Cuba. He wanted us to reach audiences deprived of alternative sources of news and information worldwide.

On another front back home in Washington, in 1972, my now late friend and colleague Paul Weyrich and I met with Dick in his Pittsburgh office to tell him of our plans to start a new kind of think tank — one that would be located on Capitol Hill, near the “action” of policymakers in Washington, D.C. Dick gave us his enthusiastic support.

In early December 1994, I invited Dick to introduce Speaker-elect Newt Gingrich to the Heritage Foundation’s President’s Club. We expected more than 1,200 members from all over the nation at this great celebration. Dick had made many public appearances before this one, but I remember him confiding to me: “The pressure is really on. Ed, do you realize that this will be Newt’s first speech since the Republicans took control of the House?”

Needless to say, he did a fine job making his introduction that afternoon, and Newt gave a spirited presentation on his plans for the new Congress, through the “Contract with America.”

Dick joined Heritage’s Board of Trustees on April 2, 1985, and served as the vice chairman of Heritage’s board for more than 20 years. About this time, he invited me to join the board of trustees of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which he chaired.

It was a highlight of my tenure as the president of the Heritage Foundation to join Tom Saunders, the chairman of our board, in presenting Heritage’s highest award — the Clare Boothe Luce Medal — to Dick at a special ceremony at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne Club on May 19, 2011.

Yes, Dick will be remembered as a pioneering publisher and generous philanthropist. But I will always think of Dick as the man of ideas — a leader who knew his own mind and who was eager to express his heartfelt beliefs to others. We will all miss him greatly.

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