(L to R) Board Chairman Thomas A. Saunders, Midge Decter, Norman Podhoretz and Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner

Two political thinkers and writers who pioneered neoconservatism, Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz, were celebrated Saturday night when The Heritage Foundation presented them with the Clare Boothe Luce Award, our highest honor for contributions to the conservative movement.

Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner joined Board Chairman Thomas A. Saunders in making the presentations to Decter and Podhoretz at a dinner ceremony at the Grand Del Mar resort in San Diego during our annual Leadership Conference and Board Meeting.

Saunders praised the husband-and-wife team – former liberals, they married in 1956 – as “intellectual lights who burn all the brighter because they have never lost sight of human nature and human needs.”

Feulner said that in addition to “advancing and uplifting decades of public debate with their compelling arguments,” Decter and Podhoretz have been “institutional builders” of the conservative movement.

Heritage established the award in 1991 in memory of Clare Boothe Luce (1903-1987), the journalist, playwright, congresswoman and diplomat known as a fiscal conservative and opponent of international communism. Past recipients include Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and William F. Buckley.

Decter brought “common sense and rapier wit” to her criticism and commentary on everything from feminism to foreign affairs, Feulner said. A senior fellow in the 1990s at the Institute on Religion and Public Life in New York City, she has given “invaluable counsel” as a member of Heritage’s Board of Trustees for more than 30 years, he said.

Podhoretz transformed Commentary magazine into “the flagship of American neoconservatism and an unwavering champion of democracy and freedom worldwide” in 35 years as its editor-in-chief, Feulner said. Also the author of 10 books, Podhoretz retired as top editor of Commentary in 1995 and served for eight years as senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he remains an adjunct fellow.

Podhoretz co-founded the Committee on the Present Danger in the mid-1970s, while Decter was instrumental in founding both the Committee for the Free World and the Independent Women’s Forum. She also is an advisory council member for the Center for Security Policy.

How fitting that the couple’s son, John Podhoretz – an established journalist and cultural commentator in his own right ­– became editor of Commentary in 2009.