Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, is the winner of the Kluge Prize, an award that comes with $1 million and is administered by the Library of Congress.
Cardoso, who was elected president of Brazil in 1994 and reelected in 1998, is the eighth recipient of the Kluge Prize, which “recognizes and celebrates work of the highest quality and greatest impact in areas that advance understanding of the human experience,” according to a Library of Congress announcement.
Cardoso, a trained sociologist, is scheduled to receive the hefty cash prize at a ceremony on July 10 in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. He is 80 years old and lives in São Paulo.
In a telephone interview from São Paulo with Fox News Latino, Cardoso said he is ecstatic about having been chosen, which he said came as an utter shock.
"It was a very big surprise to hear I got this honor," Cardoso said. "It's a prestigious award that is all the more meaningful because of the basis for it -- intellectual contribution and that as president I was able to make decisions that moved the country toward democracy.
It was a very big surprise to hear I got this honor. It's so much better to get great awards while you're still alive.
- Former Brazil President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 80, on winning the Kluge Prize
Asked about the $1 million, he laughed, acknowledging that it's certainly a nice part of the recognition.
But the true importance of the Kluge Prize for him, Cardoso said, "is the recognition it brings personally, as well as to Brazil."
And, he noted: "It's so much better to get great awards while you're still alive."
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in an announcement about Cardoso receiving the prize that the former president "has been the kind of modern scholar who combines deep study with respect for empirical evidence.”
“His fundamental aspiration is to seek out the truth about society as it can best be determined, while remaining open to revisiting conclusions as new evidence accumulates whether from a more probing analysis or from changing political and economic realities," Billington said. “He has used and embodied many different aspects of the modern social sciences, and kept a humanitarian perspective."
Even before becoming president, Cardoso was known for his scholarly analysis of the social structures of government, the economy and race relations in Brazil.
He is considered the intellectual beacon for Brazil’s metamorphosis into a more democratic nation with a potent economy that eventually become the sixth largest in the world.
"The governments after my presidency have continued the work that I laid out the foundation for," Cardoso said. "Life in Brazil has improved --people see good things on the horizon, they have faith they'll continue to move forward."
Cardoso inspired new perspectives in Latin America, the United States and elsewhere in the world with his ideas, which included the argument that economic development and social welfare could thrive in a liberal society.
"We're more integrated globally without losing our autonomy," Cardoso said.
Cardoso spent several years in exile during the Brazilian military dictatorship, which spanned from 1964 to 1985.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.