Source: Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso on Tuesday night accepted a top humanities prize at the Library of Congress for his studies of Brazil's economy and race relations.
Cardoso was awarded the $1 million Kluge Prize, which honors achievements in the humanities not covered by the Nobel Prizes.
The library announced in May that it was honoring Cardoso, saying his research on Brazil's slave heritage and social structures laid the groundwork for his leadership to transform Brazil's economy. Cardoso served as president from 1995 to 2002, helping to lead Brazil to become the world's sixth largest economy' bigger than Britain and Italy.
In his prepared remarks, Cardoso said the honor was completely unexpected for a scholar from a distant country once thought of as on the 'periphery' among world powers. Cardoso said he used his academic training as a sociologist to promote change in Brazil, first examining race and the legacy of slavery.
He began to counter popular notions that countries such as Brazil were condemned to an eternal state of submission by the rich countries saying instead they could find ways to overcome barriers. Such ideas were considered heresy in the 1960s, he said. He went on to challenge Brazil's military regime and ran for the Senate in 1978.
The exercise of politics required an ability to clearly diagnose Brazil's problems, to understand the structures that were available to effect change and to accurately gauge what was possible, he said. 'This was work of a sociologist.'
The reason of an academic and the emotion of a politician weren't at odds but were both essential for success, he said.
As a politician when Brazil returned to democracy, Cardoso confronted an economic crisis in the 1990s with inflation reaching more than 2,500 percent after seven different failed currencies in eight years. Cardoso became finance minister, helped introduce a new currency and other policies and gained public support. Within two years, inflation was reduced to just 5 percent, and Cardoso was elected president.
Cardoso also helped open Brazil to partnerships with foreign companies to foster growth in the age of globalization. 'Brazil's example shows that even a country deemed 'hopeless' can reverse its fortune quickly, Cardoso said.