Washington, D.C. – Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) applauded the announcement that the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Professor Muhammad Yunus will be held on April 17, 2013 in the U.S. Capitol. Today’s announcement by the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, comes nearly two and half years after a Durbin authored bill awarding Professor Yunus medal was signed into law. Professor Yunus, a Nobel Laureate, will be recognized as a leading figure in the effort to fight poverty and promote economic and social opportunity.
“Professor Muhammad Yunus believes overcoming poverty is not just a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right - the right to dignity and a decent life,” said Durbin. “He is truly deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal and I am honored to call him a friend. I look forward to next month’s award ceremony.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is the nation’s highest civilian award given to individuals who perform an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. Through his Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus has pioneered the microcredit movement and helped hundreds of millions of people around the world break out of poverty.
Professor Yunus will become only the seventh person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Durbin first met Professor Yunus in Bangladesh and has worked with him for more than ten years to advance microcredit and economic development in the world’s poorest nations. One of Professor Yunus’ greatest successes in recent years has been microcredit programs targeted toward poor women. Most of these programs have repayment rates greater than 95 percent and have helped women around the world change their lives and the lives of their families. It is for these efforts that Dr. Yunus was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.
“Professor Yunus has given hope to millions through his Grameen Bank. For more than thirty years, his theory of microenterprise has become a phenomenon – touching the lives of more than 100 million people around the world. It is hard to think of any single idea in our lifetime which has lifted so many people out of the deepest depths of poverty,” Durbin said.
The Congressional Gold Medal is considered the Congressional equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Legislation bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal to a recipient must be co-sponsored by two thirds of the membership of both the House of Representatives and the Senate before their respective committees will consider it. The Congressional Gold Medal is created by the United States Mint to specifically commemorate the person and achievement for which the medal is awarded.
Former recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Elie Wiesel, Pope John Paul II, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.