WASHINGTON, DC – Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate today presented a Congressional Gold Medal to President Shimon Peres of Israel.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks opening the ceremony, as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen

“Good morning and welcome to the United States Capitol. 

“Since the days of the American Revolution, every Congress has had one humbling privilege: that of awarding a Gold Medal for extraordinary contributions.  It is the highest honor we can bestow. 

“The first recipient, in 1776, was George Washington, the father of our country.  Today, under his gaze, we will present the Medal to another founding father: the Ninth President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres.

“Like General Washington, Shimon Peres has spent his life serving his country – even before there was a country to serve.  He is the great prototype of the Israeli statesman.

“We only need to glance at the titles he has held to understand this:

•             A record 48 years in the legislature;

•             A Minister in 12 cabinets;

•             A two-time Prime Minister;

•             An author of at least 11 books; and

•             A Nobel Laureate.

“These distinctions, of course, are only symbols of service.  They do not compare to the place President Peres holds in the hearts of freedom-loving people.  That is what this Medal honors above all.

“We have a great program in store.  Mr. President, I know that for your 90th birthday, you were serenaded by Barbra Streisand and toasted by Tony Blair.  I hope you don’t mind, but in the interests of time, we’ve actually asked the Vice President to do both the toast and the song.

“But this is a special moment for all of us.   It is the first time we are presenting the Gold Medal to an Israeli head of state.   And Mr. President, because of your generation, I have faith it will not be the last.

“This Medal says to our young people – and yours: never get cynical, never give in to expediency, and know that America will always stand with Israel … and with all men and women of peace.

“Thank you all for being here.”