Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso was honored last night by the Library of Congress of the United States with the  John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, a former director of the Wilson Center and a current member of its Board of Trustees, presented the recognition to the former professor of sociology at a ceremony at the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, in Washington, DC.

“In purely scholarly and academic terms he has to be considered the outstanding political scientist in late-20th-century Latin America,” Billington said when he announced the prize, on May 13th. “It’s not just that he’s the first person with a personal political career of consequence to win this award, it’s that he is also a full representative of what we call a social scientist. If you want to make an American comparison, he is like Jefferson, playing a key role in building a democracy on a scholarly foundation.” Cardoso is the first prize recipient whose work spans the fields of sociology, political science, and economics. He is also the first Latin American honored with the Kluge Prize.

Cardoso is the eighth recipient of the $1 million award, which recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact in areas that advance understanding of the human experience. A scholar of enormous intellectual energy, he has written or co-authored more than 23 scholarly books and 116 scholarly articles, with versions of each produced for a wider public. Banned from teaching in 1969 by military regime that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, in the early eighties was a member of a board of intellectuals who assisted Abraham F. Lowenthal in the establishment of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program.  As president, in the year 2000 Cardoso supported and authorized the Brazilian government to provide seed money for the creation of the Wilson Center’s Brazil Projected, which led to the establishment of the Brazil Institute in 2006. After leaving power on January 1st  2002, the  former president was a Kluge Scholar and created the Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a São Paulo-based foundation that holds functions as a presidential library and is today a key space for debate of Brazil’s public policies and the country’s role in the world.

Cardoso's acceptance speech was released by the Library of Congress, along with a press release from the event. In his emotional speech, the former President entwined his own story of growth with that of Brazil, describing the successes and failures of the past and how they might contribute to a brighter future. The event was also covered by the Brazilian media; Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo released a personal video interview with the President describing his views on the receiving the prize and contemporary issues in Brazilian politics.