News / USA

US Congressional Gold Medal Program Has Long History

US Congressional Gold Medal Program Has Long History

x
US Congressional Gold Medal Program Has Long Historyi
|| 0:00:00
X
September 18, 2012 1:48 AM
Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Wednesday. Members of Congress have bestowed the honor on hundreds of individuals over the course of American history. VOA'S Deborah Tate has a look at the medal program.

US Congressional Gold Medal Program Has Long History

Deborah Tate
Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will receive the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.  Members of Congress have bestowed the honor on hundreds of individuals over the course of American history. 

Aung San Suu Kyi is the latest recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian award.

Congress bestows the honor on an individual for a distinguished contribution or a lifetime of service.

Donald Ritchie is Historian of the U.S. Senate.

"The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by Congress, and it is a way to signify some great achievement," he said. "It can be to an American citizen, it can be to a non-citizen - someone whom Americans admire."

First presented to General George Washington in 1776, the Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to individuals from all walks of life.

They include - aeronautical pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, actor John Wayne, and composer Aaron Copland, whose "Fanfare for the Common Man" has become one of the most recognizable pieces in American classical music.

Other recipients include U.S Presidents Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, inventor Thomas Edison, singer Frank Sinatra, painter Andrew Wyeth, athletes Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, poet Robert Frost, Generals George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur, composer George Gershwin and film producer and animator Walt Disney.

Recipients who are non-U.S. citizens include two British prime ministers - Winston Churchill and Tony Blair, former South African President Nelson Mandela, the late Pope John Paul II, Holocaust survivor and political activist Elie Wiesel and Mother Teresa.

Congressional legislation is required to make each medal.  Once the legislation is passed, Congress commissions the U.S. Mint to design and create the medal, although it was not always that way.

"The first medals, back in the 18th century, were struck in Paris rather than in the United States because Americans hadn't really developed those skills at the time," said Ritchie. "It requires a very skilled artisan to create almost a work of art, a medal struck for a particular person."

Each medal is unique - depicting the individual or the event honored.

Although the Congressional Gold Medal is usually awarded at a ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol, that is not always the case.

In 1981, Canadian Ambassador to Iran Kenneth Taylor received the medal at a White House ceremony for his efforts to secure the safe return of American hostages being held in Tehran.

"That was a slightly unusual circumstance," said Ritchie. "That was a situation where diplomats had been taken hostage in Iran, and the Canadian Embassy had actually hid some Americans who could have been held prisoner, and so they jeopardized their own positions.   Once the hostages were released and this became known, the president wanted to pay tribute [to the ambassador]."

Congress awards the medal when it believes it is appropriate, rather than on any set schedule.

You May Like

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurd President Urges World Community to Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid