PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Ben Bradlee speaks with awe about one of the First Amendment issues that earned him this year's We The People Award.

The retired executive editor of The Washington Post was honored Tuesday, partly for deciding to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 under threats of punishment and for pursuing the story of the Watergate burglary and improprieties in the Nixon administration.

``Ben Bradlee would have made the founders proud,'' said Joseph M. Torsella, president of the National Constitution Center, which bestows the award.

Publication of the Pentagon Papers _ the then-classified government account of the Vietnam War _ by The New York Times and the Post led to a Supreme Court ruling upholding freedom of the press.

Bradlee remembers it as a tense, frightening time.

``There is no feeling quite like walking into the Supreme Court as a defendant,'' he said.