David Harmer of Bountiful has been named president and chief executive officer of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge. The foundation, founded in 1949, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, and nonsectarian educational organization that brings students and teachers from all across the nation to its campus in Valley Forge for intensive study of the American Revolution, the Constitution, and their contemporary relevance.
Volunteer chapters from coast to coast sponsor the students and teachers, and also identify, recognize, and award acts of exemplary citizenship. In addition, the Foundation hosts the Medal of Honor Memorial Grove in Valley Forge, recognizing those who offered — and often paid — the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedoms.
“We’re very excited that David Harmer has agreed to join us,” said interim Foundation president Wallace Nunn, who led the five-month nationwide search. “There’s a lot of tremendous work going on here at Freedoms Foundation and David is going to build on that and take us to the next level.”
“Leading Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge is the capstone of my career, the greatest honor of my professional life, and the single best way I can foster freedom,” Harmer said.
Harmer brings a wealth of corporate, nonprofit, and government experience to his new role leading the Freedoms Foundation. He has been a longtime corporate counsel to a number of major financial institutions, including Ally Bank, JPMorgan Chase and Washington Mutual Bank. He was Bradley Resident Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a Fellow of the College of Public Interest Law at Pacific Legal Foundation. He served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has authored pro-freedoms works published by think tanks, law reviews, and major newspapers, and was a delegate to three national and nine state political party conventions.
The new president’s connection to historic Valley Forge goes back to childhood, and the emphasis his parents placed on understanding the nation’s roots, as well as the responsibilities that come with citizenship.
“While I was growing up, the focal point of our home, prominently displayed on the mantel over the fireplace, was a massive framed print of Arnold Friberg’s painting “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” Harmer said. “Mom placed it there in honor of our nation’s bicentennial, and there it stayed for decades to follow. Whenever we gathered, we saw General Washington kneeling in supplication in the frigid snow, his horse’s breath visible behind him in the bitter cold. It was a daily reminder of our heritage of freedom, and of the price paid by our progenitors for the liberty, security, and prosperity we enjoyed.
“It was also a constant reminder of our duty to preserve and extend the freedoms bequeathed to us. Dad was the statesman in our family, having served as a state senator and lieutenant governor of California (with Governor Ronald Reagan), but Mom was the patriot, inculcating in all 10 of her children a deep appreciation of American history and a love of the principles of the American founding.”
Harmer has held numerous leadership roles with various education-focused non-profit organizations including Junior Achievement of Utah, and twice was a candidate for Congress in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“We’re very fortunate to have someone of this caliber, with such a wide range of experiences, joining Freedoms Foundation,” said Nunn, who also serves as chairman of the Foundation’s board. “David could go anywhere, but he sees leading Freedoms Foundation as a mission to remind Americans of our shared core values, as exhibited in our founding documents, and as a catalyst to help bring us together.”
“In a crass and vulgar age, when reasoned debate has been supplanted by televised shoutfests and tweeted insults, when free speech is under open assault on campus, Freedoms Foundation asserts that our rights as citizens are inextricably linked to corresponding responsibilities, and that among those are courtesy, consideration, and respect for the rights and beliefs of others,” Harmer said. “The Foundation is promulgating a Bill of Responsibilities whose preamble declares, ‘Freedom and responsibility are mutual and inseparable; we can ensure enjoyment of the one only by exercising the other. Freedom for all of us depends on responsibility by each of us. To secure and expand our liberties, therefore, we accept these responsibilities as individual members of a free society.’”
The challenge is to bring the values of the founding era into the Internet era, Harmer believes. “No less a luminary than General Washington himself considered the Constitution ‘little short of a miracle,’ yet all too often it is taken for granted or overtly disregarded,” said Harmer. “We neglect it at our peril. We take seriously President Ronald Reagan’s warning: ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.’”
Harmer and his wife Elayne have four children, Madison, Jonas, Ariel, and Ben.