The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Brock, one of its principal founders who served as Chairman of the NED Board of Directors from 1988 to 1990. It was Bill, as Chairman of the American Political Foundation, who wrote to Ronald Reagan in 1982—shortly before the president delivered his Westminster Address to the British Parliament—about the Foundation’s intention to sponsor a study that would examine “how the United States can help build democratic values and institutions in other nations.” Among the questions the study would address, he wrote, was whether or not the new initiative should be private and bipartisan, what its connection should be to the U.S. government, and how it should handle “the tension between maintaining friendly relations with current governments while sowing the seeds of democratic successors,” while also encouraging “domestic pluralistic forces in totalitarian countries.” The study that Bill proposed influenced the Westminster Address and laid the foundation for the creation of the NED.
NED president Carl Gershman, who worked closely with Bill Brock, said that, “My connection with Bill through the NED opened a small—but very revealing window—into his extraordinary career as a senator from Tennessee, and the U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Labor under President Reagan. It showed his ability to learn and grow, to adopt a broad vision about the United States and the world, and to think innovatively about how to advance our country’s interests and values, and act in a way that would unite the American people around common ideals. Most of all, it showed his deep commitment to democracy as a system that enables all people everywhere to develop their human potential and realize their dignity as human beings. He will be missed but not forgotten. His legacy offers a path forward for our country that I hope will be looked at closely by our leaders and citizens as we try to revive and properly celebrate the American idea.”