House & Senate leaders today held a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol to honor NASA astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. Following are House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I’m just going to go ahead and say what everyone’s been thinking: this is pretty cool.
“When the prime minister of Australia addressed Congress last March, she said that as a little girl, watching the men land on the moon proved ‘Americans can do anything.’ She grew up in Adelaide, a city east of Perth, whose residents turned on all the lights to greet John Glenn the night he flew by back in ’62.
“The world looks to America because we are free – it is our values to which people aspire. One of these values is humility – the idea that you’re part of a cause greater than yourself, that nothing in life is a do-it-yourself project. Though an often unsung virtue, humility figured prominently in the pinnacle of human achievement.
“To this day, John Glenn insists he was no hero, just a patriot serving his country, which in those days was gripped by the notion that America – and democracy itself – had fallen behind. These were daring missions, yes, but vital ones too.
“Neil Armstrong was once asked: why did you, this one man, choose to speak for all when you set foot on the lunar surface? As it turns out, there was no script, no notes. When the moment came, Neil’s thoughts turned to the 400,000 people who worked on the project … the designers, testers, engineers, and navigators who devised that one small step. He said he knew ‘it would be a big something for all those folks and a lot of others who weren’t even involved in the project.’ So it was.
“Buzz Aldrin, far from being caught up in adrenaline, paused to reflect. He took out a wafer, a thimbleful of wine, and observed communion on the moon – just as Columbus had when he reached the New World. Buzz invited everyone to ‘give thanks in his or her own way.’
“When Neil and Buzz planted the Stars and Stripes on the moon, there was one person who couldn’t watch the scene unfold live. ‘That’s all right, I don’t mind a bit,’ Michael Collins said from Apollo 11’s command module, his attention focused on making sure these pioneers would get home.
“Two years ago, Mike said this: ‘Heroes abound, but don’t count astronauts among them. We worked very hard, we did our jobs to near perfection, but that is what we had been hired to do.’ When Americans take on our work with humility and dedication, there is truly nothing we can’t accomplish. We can do anything if we humble ourselves … if we have the right stuff.
“Gentlemen: heroes or not, yours were heroic acts. Today we add to your many honors, with respect and gratitude, the Congressional Gold Medal.”