On Sept. 14, 2021, The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) supporters, alumni and friends gathered at the 31st Annual TFAS Scholarship Awards Dinner to recognize the 2021 TFAS students and prominent leaders in the business and government relations community.
TFAS presented the Congressional Leadership Award to U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska and the Business Leadership Award to Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for their contributions to free enterprise and building up the next generation of leaders.
After being unable to gather in person in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an enthusiastic group of attendees gathered to support the Business + Government Relations program this year. TFAS alumni, sponsors and friends convened to network and celebrate the outstanding leaders of today while supporting future TFAS students.
In line with TFAS’s goal to bring young people face-to-face with inspiring leaders who serve as role models for a lifetime, students from the 2021 summer programs and Capital Semester on Leadership + the American Presidency attended the event to offer their personal thanks to the supporters who made their dreams a reality.
Celebrating Honorable Leadership
With remarks from TFAS alumni, former award winners, TFAS staff and more, resounding support for TFAS’s mission to educate rising generations about the principles of free societies filled the night. A two-time alumnus and TFAS Regent, Joe Lai ’01, PPF ’07, kicked off the evening’s awards presentation with his testimony on the impact of TFAS programs and an introduction of Sen. Sullivan.
Lai is the first in his family to graduate from high school and obtain a college degree. He explained how TFAS played an integral role in his life by introducing him to concepts he had never learned before and setting him on the path to a career in Washington, where he met and worked with the senator.
“It was during my summer with TFAS 20 years ago that I was truly exposed to the foundational tenets of free-market capitalism, individual liberty and the rule of law,” Lai said.
Lai presented the 2021 Congressional Leadership Award to Sen. Sullivan for his dedication to leading with honor. The senator obtained degrees from Harvard College and Georgetown Law before joining the United States Marine Corps in 1994, where he still serves as a colonel in the Reserves today. Sullivan served Alaska as the attorney general and commissioner of natural resources; he served as the assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs in the second Bush administration; and he was appointed as a director in the international economics directorate of the National Security Council.
Elected to the Senate in 2014, Sullivan currently sits on three committees in the U.S. Senate, including the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee.
In his acceptance speech, the senator shared insight from his experience and explained the importance of the work TFAS does for the world’s youth. He elaborated on the meaning of good leadership and thanked the exceptional leaders who helped him along the way, including Judge James Buckley and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“One of the things I admire most about The Fund for American Studies,” Sullivan said, “is that in the teaching of the principles, the focus all of you have is not just on limited government and free enterprise, but also on the need for what you call ‘honorable leadership.’”
One of the things I admire most about The Fund for American Studies is that in the teaching of the principles, the focus all of you have is not just on limited government and free enterprise, but also on the need for what you call ‘honorable leadership.'” – Senator Dan Sullivan
In addition to the TFAS Alumni Network of more than 46,000 individuals across the globe, TFAS aspires to develop and equip even more young leaders and teachers who are ready, able and willing to face present challenges with courage and a commitment to a free society. TFAS programs seek to cultivate leadership skills while recognizing the accomplishments of successful leaders along the way.
Sullivan also discussed the value of service to one’s country, the importance of democracy, and the growing need for educational programs like TFAS. He noted the current inflection point in the battle of big ideas, particularly those relating to government. Democracy can be messy, he explained, but it remains the best governance system. For that reason, faith in it must remain.
“We need all of you, your commitment to American ideals of limited government, free markets and honorable leadership now more than ever,” Sullivan concluded. “And I really, really am honored by the award I received tonight.”
“Business is a Noble Calling”
Guests watched a video message from a recent Business + Government Relations student, Kenlee Foskey ’21, who shared highlights from her summer experience and thanked all the supporters for their financial contributions, which make TFAS programs a reality for many students.
“TFAS has truly been a life-changing experience to me,” Foskey said. “And truly, people would not be able to come here and experience this without you. We just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
After Foskey’s address, 2019 winner of the Business Leadership Award Susan Neely, President and CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers, took the stage to introduce Suzanne Clark. Neely described Clark as “someone who has taken the spirit of entrepreneurial drive and put it to use in service to our country at a moment of great national significance.” In other words, Clark’s passion for business has created a positive ripple effect that has bettered society.
Clark is the first woman ever to lead the Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business advocacy organization. Before becoming the president and CEO, Clark served in a variety of other leadership positions at the Chamber, including chief operating officer. She carried the organization into the 21st century and fostered economic recovery in the U.S. after the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clark serves Americans by promoting the interests of business in shaping public policy; advancing economic freedom in the United States; championing the rule of law, limited government and opportunity for all; and acting as a role model for young leaders aspiring to careers in business, government relations and public service. For these reasons, TFAS recognized Clark with the distinguished award.
I don’t know that our country has ever more urgently needed an institution like [TFAS] that educates and empowers and helps future leaders think about business and government and advocacy and how they all come together.” – Suzanne Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
In her remarks, Clark discussed the country’s growing need for organizations like TFAS, the importance of free enterprise, the role of business in solving society’s greatest challenges, and the dangers of assuming that the next generation receives a well-rounded education of the principles on which this country was founded.
“I don’t know that our country has ever more urgently needed an institution like [TFAS] that educates and empowers and helps future leaders think about business and government and advocacy and how they all come together,” she said.
Clark explained that many have forgotten how business and economic freedom improve the quality of life. She urged the audience not to assume that younger generations receive this important message, which is why the work of TFAS and similar organizations remains vital.
“We all owe TFAS a debt of gratitude for helping foster the next generation of people to carry on this work,” Clark said.
She directed the final part of her message to the country’s youth: “Business is a noble calling.” Business can be their passion, their purpose – it can give meaning to their lives and the lives of others. Business is the tie that binds this great country together. It creates opportunity, fosters growth, enhances well-being, provides security, allows people to give back, and exponentially improves lives.
TFAS Chairman Randal Teague closed the night with remarks about TFAS’s work in bringing students to Washington to live, learn and intern; practice civic engagement; build relationships; and become the leaders of tomorrow. He ended the event with a reminder of the TFAS mission:
“We only have one purpose,” Teague said. “And that is the students. We have no other purpose.”