Tom Atwood Named Robert H. Krieble Fellow in Coalition Relations

AT THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION’S DECEMBER 10 GALA to kick off our 25th Anniversary Leadership for America campaign, Dr. David Brown, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, announced our vision for America:

The Heritage Foundation is committed to rolling back the liberal welfare state and building an America where freedom, opportunity, and civil society flourish.

As Dr. Brown went on to note, accomplishing this vision will require many things, not the least of which is money. Among the generous gifts he announced that evening was an endowment gift from the family of Bob Krieble. Bob was a longtime Heritage Trustee and served as both the vice chairman of our Board and chairman of our Finance Committee.

Although Bob passed away last year, his memory will remain with us in the program that bears his name: the Robert H. Krieble Fellow in Coalition Relations. I am pleased to announce that the honor of first service in this fellowship belongs to Tom Atwood, who has served on the Heritage staff since 1987.

Tom earned his M.B.A. and M.A. in public policy from Regent University. As the Robert H. Krieble Fellow in Coalition Relations, he maintains liaison among some 2,000 scholars and 400 nonprofit organizations worldwide, with special emphasis on state think tanks that promote free-market public policy.

The myriad cross-currents of interests in that mix of individuals and institutions churns up problems of mind-bending complexity. Through his service at Heritage, Tom has long since proven that he is fully up to the task of handling those problems. What I want to comment on here is the inspiration that all conservatives can gain from the man to whom this fellowship is a permanent memorial: Bob Krieble.

Bob made his first major mark on the world back in the 1950s, in the improbable realm of nuts and bolts. The problem was as elementary as it was vexing: When you fasten mechanical parts together with nuts and bolts, how do you keep them from working loose and falling apart?

It was a mechanical engineer’s problem, but Bob envisioned a chemical engineer’s solution. He and his father, working together in a business that began with six customers and sales of $300 a month, perfected a bonding compound. They called it Loctite, a name coined by Bob’s wife, Nancy, who is now an Honorary Heritage Trustee. One drop would permanently wed nut to bolt. Bob and his father began producing the compound and selling it to industries that build everything from dishwashers to farm tractors. Their company, the Loctite Corporation, grew into a Fortune 500 giant.

Having caused a quiet revolution in the business world, Bob later turned his mind to politics and the consequences of another revolution—the Communist revolution that spawned the hideous specter of the Soviet Union. While American politicians were fashioning policies on the assumption that the Soviet Union was a permanent fixture on the planet, Bob thought otherwise. He was convinced that so craven a system could be undone by better people with better ideas.

Never knowing a problem he wouldn’t attack, Bob set to work nurturing the internal strengths that lay buried alive under the Kremlin’s rule. He began smuggling computers and fax machines to Soviet citizens. Making more than 50 trips himself, he organized field teams that went behind the Iron Curtain to live among the Soviet people and spread the subversive doctrines of freedom and democracy. The KGB warned President Gorbachev about these subversives, but he ignored the warning and thus invited the coup that toppled his regime.

Bob produced the first political commercials ever run on Ukrainian television. They promoted Ukrainian independence. And when 89 percent of the voters agreed with that message, their democratic will drove the last nail into the Soviet coffin.

In his every success, Bob Krieble was a model and an inspiration for conservatives today. He showed us that seemingly impossible dreams can be achieved if only we form an intelligent plan and pursue it with an attitude that knows no defeat.

Too many conservatives today are losing hope. They doubt that we can compensate for the leadership vacuum in Congress. They doubt that the liberal welfare state can be brought to collapse and that America can be set squarely on its original foundations. In short, they doubt that Heritage’s vision for America can be achieved.

The only acceptable response to them is the one Bob Krieble gave to every naysayer who doubted him, the response he gave to every obstacle that ever stood between him and his vision of great things that could be and ought to be: Yes, we can.


Dr. Feulner is President of The Heritage Foundation.