Press release October 19, 2023
Freedom House Welcomes New Board Co-Chair Wendell L. Willkie, II
WASHINGTON— Freedom House is pleased to announce that Wendell L. Willkie, II will join former Congresswoman Jane Harman as co-chair of the Freedom House Board of Trustees. Willkie has held senior positions in the private sector, in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, and previously served for more than two decades as a Freedom House Trustee.
“This challenging moment for democracy in the U.S. and around the world demands outstanding leadership and bipartisan solutions from government, the private sector, and beyond,” said Jane Harman, a former nine-term Democratic member of Congress from California. “Wendell’s exceptional experience in senior posts in government, the private sector, and academia make him a perfect partner to lead Freedom House during these tumultuous times. His service in previous GOP administrations also helps send a powerful message that the cause of freedom should unite people across party lines.”
“I could not be more pleased that Wendell is rejoining the board in such an important leadership position,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “There are few individuals who are so committed to Freedom House and its great cause. His insights and leadership will be invaluable as we continue our relentless work to expand and defend freedom around the world.”
Willkie is the grandson of Wendell L. Willkie, who partnered with Eleanor Roosevelt and other leaders to spearhead Freedom House’s founding in 1941 to confront American isolationism and marshal support among policymakers to engage in the fight against Nazi Germany and the threat of fascism. In the decades since, and with strategic guidance from the Board of Trustees, the organization has worked diligently in pursuit of its mission. Through its advocacy, programs, and research, Freedom House informs the world about emerging threats to freedom; mobilizes decision-makers to respond to those threats; and provides support to human rights defenders around the world.
Willkie is currently adjunct professor of law at New York University, as well as an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, following more than 20 years as the general counsel and a member of the executive leadership of a major, multinational manufacturing company. Willkie previously held several senior law and management positions in the U.S. government. Under President Reagan, he was associate counsel to the president, and later was general counsel and chief of staff of the U.S. Department of Education. Under President George H. W. Bush, he served as general counsel and deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. He served on the Freedom House Board between 1993 and 2005, and more recently as an emeritus trustee.
“Around the world, authoritarian forces are ever more aggressively challenging democratic principles and personal freedom,” said Willkie. “For more than 80 years, Freedom House has valiantly carried the torch for democracy and human liberty. I am thrilled to join Jane, Mike, and the Board of Trustees as we explore how to build upon the important legacy of this extraordinary organization so that we make the fullest contribution to the cause of freedom.”
Freedom House is proud to have included many prominent Trustees since its founding. They include civil and human rights activist Bayard Rustin; ambassador and foreign policy adviser Jeane Kirkpatrick; Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; anti-Nazi journalist Dorothy Thompson; diplomat and negotiator Sol Linowitz; lawyer and public servant William H. Taft IV; pioneering Black labor leader and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph; author Bette Bao Lord; and diplomat Max Kampelman, among others.
You can find a full list of current Freedom House Trustees here.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.