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Acton Notes - January/February 2014 Notes

Acton Ranked as a Top Think Tank

The University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program ranked the Acton Institute among the top social policy and top overall U.S. think tanks with the release of its 2013 Global Go-To Think Tanks Report. In a new category for the survey, now in its seventh year, Acton was listed at No. 17 among global think tanks for "best think tank conference" in recognition of general excellence in events and programming. The high ranking from the new category is based heavily on the success of programs like Acton University and the Toward a Free and Virtuous Society Conference events. Highlights from the Report:

  • Acton Institute 11th in the Top Social Policy Think Tanks (13th in 2012)
  • Acton Institute 34th in Top Think Tanks in the United States (34th in 2012)
  • 10th in Best Advocacy Campaign (19th in 2012) for PoveryCure.org.
  • In the new category "Best Think Tank Conference" Acton ranked 17th
  • There are 1,828 think tanks in the U.S. (more than twice the number in 1980)

The Global Go-To Think Tank Index is the result of an international survey of over 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who helped rank more than 6,500 think tanks using a set of 18 criteria developed by the TTCSP. The process of nominating organizations and ranking them is rigorous and yearlong. You can visit TTCP's ranking page at http://gotothinktank.com/rankings to view the 2013 report or to access reports from previous years.

James G. McGann, director of TTCPS noted, "In the world filled with tweets and sound bites that are often superficial and politically charged, it is critical to know where to turn for sound policy proposals that address the complex policy issues that policymakers and the public face."

Blackwater's Erik Prince Talks About New Book

On February 18, founder and former CEO of Blackwater, Inc., Erik Prince, spoke about his controversial work at a sold-out event at the Acton Building in downtown Grand Rapids. Blackwater, renamed Academi in 2011, is an elite, privately-owned security service provider that is well-known for its work in Afghanistan and Iraq during the War on Terror. In 2005, six Blackwater USA independent contractors were killed in Iraq and two bodies were hung from a bridge when their helicopter was shot down. Prince's new book detailing his story is titled Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.

Prince credited his background and upbringing in West Michigan as a decisive factor for his entrepreneurial ideas and success. He lauded the success of Blackwater but noted, "We got caught up in the politics of the Iraqi war." He added that the, "hot air blowing in Washington became a blow torch."

During his presidential candidacy in 2008, then Senator Barack Obama utilized Blackwater security in a trip to Afghanistan. That same year Obama stated, "Blackwater is getting a bad rap." A small group of local protestors picketed outside of Acton's headquarters over the issue of allowing Prince to speak in Grand Rapids. A full video of Prince's presentation can be found at http://blog.acton.org/archives/66012-video-erik-princecivilian-warriors.html.

Acton Taps Todd Huizinga to lead International Outreach

Career diplomat and think tank entrepreneur Todd Huizinga recently joined the Acton Institute as Director of International Outreach. Huizinga served in the U.S. State Department from 1992 – 2012. Huizinga served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Luxembourg, political counselor at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, consul for political and economic affairs at the U.S. consulates in Hamburg and Munich, and consul for public affairs at the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. He has also served at embassies and consulates in Dublin, Frankfurt and Costa Rica, and in the European Affairs Bureau of the U.S. Department of State in Washington.

He has received seven Meritorious Honor Awards for his diplomatic work, including for his reporting on political affairs in Germany and Costa Rica, his contributions to the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and his role in organizing visits of President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to Europe and Latin America. He was also awarded for spearheading U.S. government participation in the 2011 Munich Security Conference, attended by the U.S. secretary of state, nineteen U.S. Senators and Representatives, and other officials.

Huizinga, a Grand Rapids native and Calvin College graduate, co-founded the Transatlantic Christian Council, a non-profit corporation based in the Netherlands and the United States that promotes limited government, the free market, individual liberty, and civic virtue.

2014 Acton University Evening Speakers Announced

Acton University, which takes place from June 17-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich, features a powerful lineup of evening speakers for 2014. Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, and Makoto Fujimura, a public intellectual and artist, will join Rev. Robert Sirico in addressing 1,000 attendees from all over the world. In 2013, over 800 leaders and future leaders representing over 70 countries, from many faith traditions, attended Acton University.

Andy Crouch is the author of Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, published in October 2013. His book Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, won Christianity Today's 2009 Book Award for Christianity and Culture and was named one of the best books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly, Relevant, Outreach, and Leadership. In 2012 he became executive editor of Christianity Today.

A bestselling author, Ross Douthat joined The New York Times as an op-ed columnist in April 2009. Previously, he was a senior editor at the Atlantic and a blogger for theatlantic.com. His most recent book is Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (Free Press, 2012).

Makoto Fujimura is an artist, writer, and speaker who is recognized worldwide as a cultural shaper. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Fujimura served as an international advocate for the arts, speaking with decision-makers and advising governmental policies on the arts.

Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano will also be teaching at Acton University and leading a special "Lunch 'n Learn" program. Acton University 2014 will feature over 100 courses and over 55 teaching experts in their field. Find out more about Acton University at university.acton.org.