Conservative Spotlight: Jack Kemp Foundation

The newly formed Jack Kemp Foundation will honor the legacy of the late Jack Kemp, who served as a nine-term congressman, vice presidential candidate and secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under George H.W. Bush. Kemp’s youngest son, Jimmy, will serve as president of the foundation.

“I hadn’t planned on doing this, but it’s an incredible privilege, and I’m having a great time putting this together,” Jimmy Kemp told HUMAN EVENTS. Kemp said that when his father became ill and ultimately passed away in May 2009, the family was surprised at the outpouring of admiration for him and the qualities he represented. “It helped convince me that there’s an incredible need and desire in our country for leadership that is principled and based on a real intellectual curiosity and a passion for ideas,” he said.  

The foundation, which will be based in Washington, D.C., officially launched on Wednesday, October 21. It is organized around three core components, according to Kemp. The first is the goal to digitize Jack Kemp’s papers from his time with both Congress and HUD and make them available to researchers worldwide through the Library of Congress.  

“There’s a manuscript room at the Library of Congress, where the manuscripts are available for researchers,” Kemp explained. “You’ve got Abraham Lincoln’s papers, George Washington, James Madison. The only current non-President politicians who have their papers there are Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger, so we’re really pleased that the Library of Congress saw fit to receive the papers.” The foundation also plans to collect video clips of Kemp through the digitization process for an online resource called “Kemp On…” featuring a variety of topics.

The second component is the Kemp Forum, which Jimmy Kemp said he is most looking forward to, perhaps because he plans to have it closely mimic his father’s style. “My dad … always would engage whoever he was with in discussion and was very friendly but enthusiastic about whatever idea would come up,” he said. “Business meetings often turned into discussions on tax policy or other issues. My last eight years in business with him, that sometimes frustrated me, but you could never get him out of the kind of evangelical mode of trying to have an impact. … So the Kemp Forum will be that type of platform and we are going to bring together former politicians, current politicians, leading thinkers … to have interesting conversations that can yield extraordinary results.”  

The third component is Kemp Initiatives, in which the foundation will partner with international and domestic projects that are engaged in work consistent with the foundation’s guiding principles. For their first initiative, the foundation will work with George Mason University’s Mercatus Center on Enterprise Africa, focusing on a project in Rwanda.  

“There’ve been lots of success stories in Rwanda, coming out of the civil war, because they’ve made policy changes that incentivizes folks to start businesses, and then where economic growth happened, we’ve also seen reconciliation between people who were at war,” Kemp said. He noted that the theme of “where there’s growth, there’s social improvement” ran throughout his father’s career.  

Although the Kemp family has historically specialized in football, the metaphor Jimmy Kemp uses for his current project is ship-building. “I feel like we’re building [the foundation] out in the water right now,” he says. “Our hull is beautiful, though. My dad has a great legacy and I’m incredibly privileged and grateful for his career, and the admiration that folks have for him, so we’re really blessed and benefiting from his work and career and the love that people have for him. So we get to stand on his shoulders, and in a sense we’re standing on his hull right now, building his ship, but we need to take it into dry dock and complete it. We’ve got a lot of great materials, but we’ve got some work to do.”  

Kemp plans to hold the first Kemp Forum event in spring 2010 and hopes that by the end of 2010, the digitization — or at least the additional online video resources — will be up and running. Keep your eye on the end zone.  

For more information about the Jack Kemp Foundation, visit their website at or call 202-452-6224. 


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