WASHINGTON, DC – House and Senate leaders presented Professor Muhammad Yunus with a Congressional Gold Medal today in a ceremony held in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. The medal, awarded to Yunus in 2010, recognizes his contributions to the fight against global poverty. Prior to the presentation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Let me thank my colleagues for their fine words. In a few moments, we will present Professor Yunus with the Gold Medal.
“What makes this medal so unique – so American – is that it can go to anyone from anywhere. It’s not an award we only give to generals and presidents. Because one thing that makes America more than a country is the idea that you don’t need a big job or a fancy title to do something bigger than yourself.
“Professor Yunus set out to do what may be the biggest thing of all, and that is liberating people to seek a better life. And not just any people, but men and women who had only known misery, who had been told they were no good.
“To do all this, he first had to teach himself how to run a bank from scratch. That was when he realized he had to do the exact opposite of what a bank normally does to make his idea work Then there was actually getting people to borrow the money, to see value in themselves, to spark their sense of wonder. He had to convince them that they too didn’t need rank or status to advance their place in life.
“Then of course there were all the skeptics. One banker called his experiment ‘nothing, a flyspeck.’ Another said this ‘is not really a bank. It depends too much on Professor Yunus’s personality. We can’t have a Yunus in every branch.’
“Right then and there, in front of a table full of bankers, Professor Yunus drew up a five-year expansion plan for his experiment. And challenged them to choose areas he could never reach all at once. Of course, his plan succeeded, and millions around the world are better for it.
“Yes, the idea is the thing. But as the paintings on this wall remind us, it’s the hard work and the sacrifice that separates the doers from the dreamers.
“And so for Professor Muhammad Yunus – a revolutionary in his own right – the United States Mint has struck a Gold Medal, which we present with awe and gratitude.”