- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation doesn’t discount dissenting voices, it gives them its highest honor.

Thursday’s celebration for the 2006 Bradley Prize winners gathered a quartet of big thinkers whose views aren’t always accepted by the mainstream.

That’s the mainstream’s loss, if the night’s acceptance speeches were any indication.

Middle East expert Fouad Ajami, economist Hernando de Soto, race relations scholar Shelby Steele and school choice advocate Clint Bolick each received a $250,000 stipend and numerous standing ovations at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater. As if that weren’t enough, they were treated to musical numbers by Della Reese, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan and the District’s own Shiloh Gospel Choir.

The winners, in turn, inspired the crowd with details of their intellectual struggles and collective hope for the future.

They also broke up the crowd on occasion.

Mr. Ajami said he prepared to move from his native Lebanon to the U.S. years ago by watching every cowboy movie he could, but even today has plenty to learn about his new homeland.

“I still don’t know what a chicken fried steak is,” he said.

The night’s emcee, George Will, dubbed Mr. Bolick a “cheerful partisan,” one who won’t stop until all parents can choose the school their children attend.

“The great civil rights cause of our time is school choice,” Mr. Bolick noted.

Mr. de Soto, targeted for assassination by those in Peru who disagree with his economic theories, said he is obsessed with learning how America acquired its democratic spirit so he can help bring it to other countries.

Mr. Will says Mr. Steele’s writings on race puts him alongside such literary giants as Frederick Douglass and Ralph Ellison.

The author of a new book titled “White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era,” Mr. Steele slams liberals who pander to his peers via affirmative action programs, saying such efforts “infantilize blacks.”

The Bradley Foundation, created by the late Harry and Lynde Bradley of Milwaukee, with a $290 million gift, sets aside resources to support great minds who promote democracy, capitalism and freedom.

At a pre-program VIP reception, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said the affair provides “a way for an intellectual and ideological community to express itself.”

“Generally, liberals have a monopoly on this kind of thing. Not anymore,” said the pundit, himself a 2004 Bradley Prize winner.

Mr. Bolick, clearly awed by the company he was keeping, said the Bradley stipend was a great honor but, for him, not the reason why he speaks so passionately in favor of school choice.

“If I could, I’d do the kind of work I do for free,” he said.

— Christian Toto

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