The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation’s awards ceremony at the Kennedy Center Wednesday night was a conservative-movement celebration of capitalism, freedom, equality and American values. It also was an indictment of political correctness in the mainstream media.
On a stage decorated in red, white and blue and in a ceremony that began with the National Anthem and was punctuated with singers belting out “America the Beautiful” and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” the Milwaukee-based foundation offered its second annual $250,000 gifts for “outstanding intellectual achievement” to columnist George Will; American Civil Rights Institute founder Ward Connerly; Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald; and Princeton University professor Robert P. George, who serves on the President’s Council on Bioethics and is working on a book about the moral status of the human embryo.
Before an audience of 500 guests, many in black tie, the four recipients were heralded as tireless combatants in “the war of ideas” after being chosen by a committee that included former federal Judge Robert H. Bork, former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. du Pont IV, former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and columnist Charles Krauthammer, all of whom attended the event along with such other stalwarts of the right as publisher Al Regnery, scholar-commentator Ben Wattenberg, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund and Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner.
Newsman Fred Barnes served as a very straight-laced master of ceremonies during the 90-minute program as Bradley Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Michael W. Grebe handed out handsome crystal statuettes shaped in the form of a lion (the foundation’s symbol). The money, presumably, came later.
Endowed in 1985 by the Bradley brothers’ electronics and radio components fortune, the foundation has become one of the country’s largest and most influential supporters of the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation as well as other individuals and organizations working to limit the power of government by deregulating industry, ending affirmative action and supporting faith-based initiatives.
At a cocktail reception following the ceremony, Media Research Center founder and President L. Brent Bozell III said it would be hard to overestimate the influence this philanthropy has had on American thought. “There really wouldn’t be a modern conservative movement today without the Bradley Foundation,” Mr. Bozell explained. “They’re beyond huge.”
Conservatives’ efforts ” and their foes’ opposition to them ” were touched upon in the acceptance speeches. Mr. Connerly, a prominent opponent of affirmative action and author of “Creating Equal: My Fight Against Race Preferences,” noted that “one of the most formidable forces in our society is political correctness.”
Mrs. MacDonald spoke of the “destruction wrought by liberal paternalism” while criticizing the New York Times and other news organizations as the “official organs of self-righteousness.” She was grateful, she added, that “the supporters of common sense and personal responsibility now hold the reins in Washington.”
Mr. Will’s speech was last and also the most concise and eloquent: a call for a return to the ideals of America’s founders ” James Madison’s in particular.
“There is in our country a palpable hunger … to be connected to our Founding Fathers,” he said before praising the Bradley Foundation for being aware that public opinion, and subsequently public policy, can be influenced by continuing to support opinion makers who are, like himself, “in the business of shifting the sand.”