Movies have the Oscars. TV has the Emmys, Broadway the Tonys. And the conservative movement has the Bradley Prizes. The Scrapbook isn’t exaggerating—much. Last week, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation held its annual celebration of individual achievement in the cause of freedom, and it was more like a show-business saturnalia than the typical wonky D.C. powwow. In one of the august auditoriums
of the Kennedy Center, a comely star of Broadway musicals opened and closed the event, serenading the crowd. Red, white, and blue strobe lights flashed as each recipient, conspicuously wearing a medal hanging on a ribbon, walked onstage to the orchestra’s cue. There was a crucial difference, however: Instead of insipid grocery-list-style thank-yous interspersed with the occasional call to end genocide, there were inspiring speeches showcasing the primacy of freedom to every human being, from artists of genius to disadvantaged parents of struggling schoolchildren.
Four figures received the acclaim of their colleagues—and a $250,000 check—for their work in varied fields. George Will, who emceed the event (and a former Bradley Prize-winner himself), dubbed Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel the “fourth branch of government” for her dogged pursuit of the truth behind what she called “the accepted storylines” advanced by politicos and pundits alike. Goldwater Institute president Darcy Olsen, a preeminent advocate of school choice, asked a question more leaders should take to heart: “What if the solution to Washington isn’t in Washington?” Terry Teachout, the playwright and Wall Street Journal drama critic, gave a provocative talk arguing for art over ideas. He elegantly summarized his job: “I seek to be ever and always alive to the moral force of art whose creators aspire merely to make everything more beautiful, and in so doing to pierce the veil of the visible and give us a glimpse of the transcendently true.”
Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett, one of the country’s greatest legal minds, discussed the two conflicting visions of the Constitution and ended the evening on a particularly stirring note by dismissing the idea that America has become, as the media often have it, too “polarized.” “Our politics seems divisive today because there are now two sides to this fundamental debate,” he argued.
For the first time in its 10-year history, the Bradley Prize ceremony was streamed online. You can watch all of the fabulous event—from outside the Beltway, even—at BradleyPrizes.org.