WASHINGTON -- A prominent conservative foundation is lavishing a $250,000 award on Victor Davis Hanson, the Fresno-area farmer and classics professor turned public intellectual.
The Bradley Prize becomes the latest and far-and-away most lucrative in a line of honors bestowed on Hanson, who now holds emeritus status at California State University, Fresno. While the prize is novel, the dollars send a deliberate message.
"Quite a shock," Hanson said by e-mail Tuesday, shortly after arriving in Washington from Europe. "I'm very appreciative, and did not think someone from rural Selma would have his voice heard with other more distinguished authors and thinkers."
Hanson considers home to be his 40-acre family farm in Fresno County, where he was raised by his mother Pauline and father William. Often, though, he's in the San Francisco Bay Area or traveling. Most recently, he's globe-trotted as a presidential appointee to the American Battle Monuments Commission, which oversees 27 overseas military cemeteries.
He's traveling in headier company than when he published his first book in 1983, titled "Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece." He has since authored or edited another dozen books that address modern controversies, consulted with the likes of Vice President Dick Cheney and energetically championed the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"When this is all over, and I expect it will be soon," Hanson wrote optimistically about Iraq in March 2003, "besides a great moral accounting, I hope that there will deep introspection and sober public discussion about the peculiar ignorance and deductive pessimism on the part of our elites."
Iraq soon deteriorated, with some 4,000 U.S. soldiers and an estimated 80,000 Iraqis dying in the meantime. Now, Hanson declares that Iraq has dramatically improved thanks to adroit leadership by Gen. David Petraeus and the ongoing occupation by 150,000 U.S. troops.
"They have done the incredible -- gone to the heart of the ancient caliphate, removed a monster, and given the Iraqi people a chance at constitutional government," Hanson said Tuesday.
The Bradley Prize is still relatively new, and it's fighting for the spotlight. A quarter-page color ad in the Washington Post on Tuesday announced the Wednesday evening presentation at the Kennedy Center. The no-strings-attached award was designed to "draw attention," foundation president Michael Grebe told The Bee in 2005.
Hanson said he'll use his prize money much like "all complaining farmers" might.
"(It ensures) that I can continue to rent out my vineyard for a few years more, since the rent doesn't cover the depreciation, taxes, and assorted costs," Hanson said, adding that he will "try to help my children with their education and housing expenses."
He'll also be finishing two books, a novel about Sparta and an edited anthology about ancient military theorists.
"(I) realize that I have been doing too much journalism and not enough book writing and scholarship, and so hope to inverse the ratio this year," Hanson said.
Hanson is one of four recipients, joining Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker, historian Alan Charles Kors and author Robert L. Woodson Sr. Past winners have included former University of California regent and affirmative action opponent Ward Connerly.
The award was first established in 2004 by the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which bills itself as "strengthening American democratic capitalism." The foundation generally funds free market and right-of-center entities.
The foundation, for instance, funded Connerly's Sacramento-based American Civil Rights Institute, and it supports Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, where Hanson is a senior fellow in residence.