Debbie Marriott Harrison serves as the Global Cultural Ambassador Emeritus for Marriott International. She is also a member of the Public Affairs Advisory Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On May 7, 2020, Debbie was one of six religious leaders to participate in the White House National Day of Prayer service. Her prayer included a plea to Heavenly Father for deliverance from the COVID-19 pandemic. She asked for special protection for the healthcare providers and for doctors and scientists to be able to develop effective treatments, including an effective vaccine. She also asked for a blessing on leaders to work in harmony together.
“Although Harrison said she was very nervous to participate in the day of prayer when she received the invitation from Elder Ronald A. Rasband on behalf of the First Presidency, she said she was truly honored to do so.”
- On Tuesday morning, prior to the event, Harrison said she woke with very clear thoughts and impressions of what she should say and immediately went to write them down.
- “I really felt the Spirit present when I was writing, and in our Church, we really don’t write our prayers down,” she said. “But I knew that the White House needed a copy for their archives, and I wanted to get my thoughts clear anyway, but I really felt that the Lord guided me to say what I needed to say.”
- She looked at her prayer not only as an opportunity to call on God during this time of trouble but also as an opportunity to teach those of other faiths a bit more about the Church.
- “I really didn’t want to leave any doubt in anybody’s mind that we are Christians and that we worship our Savior,” she said. “It was such a great privilege to represent the Church.”
Debbie is the oldest child of Bill and Donna Garff Marriott. She was born in 1957 with a congenital heart defect. Deemed old enough to have surgery, she was five years old when her parents brought her to the Mayo Clinic. The day after her surgery her heart went into fibrillation, but the doctors and nurses helped her pull through. As an adult, she battled thyroid cancer.
Growing up, Debbie was especially close to her father. She and her three brothers were expected to work hard both at home and when they were allowed to join the Marriott business. She remembers that her parents prioritized education and travel, and they did not splurge on a big house or fancy cars.
Debbie attended the National Cathedral School for girls. She then graduated from Brigham Young University with honors. She married Ron Harrison in 1978 and was happy to take his last name so that her children would not live under the pressure of the Marriott name. She and her husband are the parents of five children.
In 2007, Debbie’s father offered her the job as Marriott’s vice president of government affairs. Until then, she had raised her children, volunteered, served in the Church of Jesus Christ, became a mental health advocate after her twin sons were diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She served as vice president of government affairs from may 2006 to June 2007 when she was promoted to Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. She served there through October 2013. She has served on the board of Marriott Vacations Worldwide Corporation. She served as Global Officer Marriott Culture and Business Councils (October 2013 to May 2019).
She has served on various committees and boards including the Mayo Clinic Leadership Council for the District of Columbia and the boards of the Bullis School, the D.C. College Access Program, and the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. She has also served on the boards of several mental health organizations, including The National Institute of Mental Health Advisory Board, Depression and Related Affective Disorders Association, and the Center for the Advancement of Children’s Mental Health in association with Columbia University.