On Thursday, October 22, 2015, the United States Congress presented the Monuments Men and women, of all fourteen nations, with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States. George Washington received the first medal. (A partial list of recipients is provided below.) Normally only two Congressional Gold Medals are awarded each year, due in part to the rigorous review and approval process that requires two-thirds consent of both houses of Congress. Nine years of work to encourage our nation to formally honor these heroes has now resulted in this august recognition. Following President Obama’s signature marking formal passage of this bill in June 2014, the Foundation has spent much of the past twelve months meeting with officials from the U.S. Mint and their team of artists on the design of the gold medal. The outcome is spectacular!
Bronze duplicates of the medal are available for purchase in two sizes on the United States Mint website.
The Speaker of the House, Congressman John Boehner, served as the Master of Ceremony for the event. Other speakers included the Majority and Minority leaders of each party in both Houses of Congress, the Senate and House sponsors of the bill, Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger, and Robert M. Edsel, Founder and Chairman of the Foundation. All members of Congress were invited to attend this event.
A partial list of past recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal:
Former United States Presidents Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan; pioneers/explorers the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, and Neil Armstrong; military figures and groups Generals Ulysses S. Grant, George C. Marshall, and Douglas MacArthur; and the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Doolittle Raiders; celebrities Bob Hope, John Wayne; foreign dignitaries including Sir Winston Churchill; artists/musicians George Gershwin, Robert Frost, and Andrew Wyeth; athletes Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Jack Nicklaus; religious figures Pope John Paul II, Rev. Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama; and human rights leaders Dr. Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Elie Wiesel, and Nelson Mandela.