Darcy Olsen

Darcy Olsen turned the Goldwater Institute from a troubled operation into what many hold to be the nation’s premier conservative think tank, and, indeed, America’s best-run and, dollar for dollar, most consequential and emulated center-right outfit…Yesterday, Darcy announced she was stepping down as CEO to focus on advocating for children. Good for them — kids could have no better guardian angel.

—National Review

About Darcy

Darcy Olsen’s teachers routinely sent her to the back of the classroom for talking too much. She is happy to have a career where her inquisitive mind and communication skills are finally appreciated.

Darcy Olsen served as CEO of the Goldwater Institute for sixteen years before stepping down in 2017. When Olsen took the helm of the Institute, a handful of members were keeping the facility afloat. She revamped the Institute’s structure to parallel a private company focused on results, added litigators to its arsenal, and expanded operations from one state into fifty, creating a national powerhouse.

“The Goldwater Institute is simply in the liberty business,” George Will observed, “and there’s no institution in the country that performs that business better.”

Of the more than 300 reforms implemented during her tenure, Olsen may be best known for the Right to Try. In 2015, she published “The Right to Try: How the Federal Government Prevents Americans from Getting the Lifesaving Treatments They Need.” The Right to Try movement became one of the most swift and successful in American history. 37 states have adopted the law, saving countless lives.

Olsen earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a master’s degree in International Education from New York University.

Olsen is a recipient of the Bradley Prize (2014) and the national Roe Award (2006). One of her most unexpected awards came when Hockey News Magazine named her the “64th most powerful person in hockey” for her leading role in blocking a multimillion-dollar subsidy to an NHL team.

Olsen speaks and writes on a range of issues including foster care and adoption, education policy, and how to drive change through initiatives like the Right to Try.

Olsen embarked on her work in public policy as an editor for Regulation magazine at the Cato Institute. During her four years at Cato, she went on to serve as a policy analyst and opened and directed the Institute’s Division of Education and Child Policy.

On Camera

In Print

Darcy Olsen in Wall Street Journal

Should the FDA Relax Rules on Compassionate Access to New Drugs?

Supporters of softening the rules say the dying deserve easier access to possible cures. Opponents say delays are caused by drugmakers, not the FDA [...]

Darcy Olsen in Time

Dying Patients Should Have Right to Try New Treatment

Imagine the joy of watching your dying son experience a miraculous recovery from an incurable disease thanks to an experimental medicine. Then imagine [...]

Darcy Olsen in National Review

How Washington Can Help Sick Americans Without Spending a Dime

A 13-year-old Phoenix boy with deadly osteosarcoma is forced to move to London with his family to get access to a life-saving medicine [...]

"We have infants staying in office buildings," said the social worker. Days later, I left the hospital cradling an abandoned newborn who became my first daughter. In the blink of an eye, I'd fostered seven and adopted three. My sister painted this portrait of us and proclaimed, "Do you know what I see? There's room for one more!"

Portrait by Amanda Bills