Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) addressed a packed auditorium at The Heritage Foundation this morning, just moments after being named the organization’s next president. He will succeed Ed Feulner, who is stepping down after 35 years leading the think tank.

More than 200 employees of the Heritage Foundation rose for a standing ovation as Feulner passed the torch to his successor. One Heritage employee shouted a battle cry: “Hoo rah!”

That set the tone for the staff meeting. Heritage’s Board of Trustees, announced Chairman Thomas A. Saunders, voted unanimously to approve the decision.

DeMint said it was “the honor of my life,” and joked that the move would be “a big promotion.”

“This organization is in a position to do more to save our country than any other organization I’m aware of,” DeMint said. “I believe that we have put together here the power, the muscle, the ideas to turn things around.”

DeMint, Feulner, and Saunders stressed that Heritage’s policy-focused, detail-oriented approach will remain the organization’s mission. DeMint pledged in a Thursday statement to “protect the integrity of Heritage’s research and not politicize the policy component. Heritage is not just another grassroots political group.”

Indeed, DeMint stressed that his proposals in the Senate have been informed by Heritage’s  policy work. “This is a homecoming for me,” he said, noting that he was inspired to run after reading Heritage’s policy work. “This feels like I just walked in the front door of my own house,” he told Heritage staff.

DeMint will take over as president in April. Feulner will remain as Heritage’s chancellor and the chairman of its Asian Studies Center.


Transcript of video above:

Senator Jim DeMint:

The only place I would consider leaving the Senate for is The Heritage Foundation.


Thomas A Saunders:

Today we have combined the most powerful and effective conservative think tank in America with America’s most principled and effective conservative leader. I’d like to say we are turbo-charging our already powerful engine. Today, Jim DeMint takes the helm of the best think tank in America, with conservative principles and rigorous research intertwined in its DNA during an even more uncertain time.

Edwin J. Feulner:

My successor, I think, will inherit a Heritage Foundation that’s stronger than ever and that is more essential than ever.

Senator DeMint:

This is very emotional, for you and I think for me. This literally feels like I just walked in the front door of my own house. And I’ve always felt that way when I left Capitol Hill and came over here to either stand here or do programs with The Heritage Foundation. That sense of family began well before I ever ran for office. I‘ve gone through a lot of this with the board, but I was inspired to run for Congress because of several years of reading Heritage policy papers.

Recognizing, and I’ve told this story many times, just as the story of the Ugly Duckling looked and saw his reflection and found he was not an ugly duckling at all but a beautiful swan. Not that I’m a beautiful swan—but I looked into all these papers and realized that I was a conservative, and I was inspired by these ideas that could change America and restore us to those founding principles.

Ed Feulner had the wisdom to build it around a cause and a set of principles that were much bigger than he or anyone that worked here. Collectively, this organization is in a position to do more to save our country than any organization that I’m aware of… This is an urgent matter that we as a Heritage Foundation are in the best position to change things. I know the people—the conservatives on the Hill are counting on us, conservatives all over the country are counting on us, and I believe that we have put together here the power, the muscle, the ideas to turn things around.

I feel like this is a homecoming for me and that you’ve all had a part of training and developing me, and so if you don’t like what you’ve got here it’s your own fault.

[Laughter and applause]