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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid