WASHINGTON, DC - The
Senate passed bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte
(R-NH) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) to award Israeli President
Shimon Peres with a Congressional Gold Medal. The bill passed the Senate
unanimously and now awaits passage by the House of Representatives. If
the bill is enacted, President Peres would be the first sitting
President of Israel to receive this prestigious award.
The Congressional Gold
Medal is the highest civilian award in the United States and is awarded
to individuals, organizations, or events that have made a tremendous
contribution to the history and culture of our country.
Before the actual vote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
made these remarks on the Senate floor " I have had the good fortune to
travel the world meeting Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and many
people, but I have never met anyone more impressive than [Shimon Peres].
He is a visionary. What he has done for the small country of Israel,
which is so important to us, is something the history books will report
for generations to come."
"I spoke with [President
Peres] earlier this week about another matter. I haven't been to Israel a
lot of times, but I have been there a few times. Every time I go, I
make sure to take my delegation to visit him... I think so much of this
man. It is the least we can do for someone who has done so much for
world peace and so much for our country."
"I'm pleased to honor
President Peres' extraordinary record of service that has strengthened
the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel, our closest and most
reliable ally in the Middle East," said Senator Ayotte.
"This legislation demonstrates that the United States stands shoulder
to shoulder with the people of Israel in these uncertain times."
"In a world that is
more complicated than ever, President Peres' leadership has helped
strengthen a U.S.-Israel relationship forged by our shared commitment to
democracy, human rights, and rule of law. His career will serve as a
beacon for the next generation of leaders," said Senator Bennet. "We are pleased to celebrate and honor President Peres as one of Israel's most dedicated public servants."
"This is truly
historic. The Senate's approval of this legislation sends a very strong
message to the world that the U.S. reaffirms its unbreakable bond with
the State of Israel. This unique recognition of the President of the
State of Israel symbolizes the essence of the U.S.-Israel relationship,"
said Ezra Friedlander, CEO of The Friedlander Group, which was instrumental in creating the Shimon Peres Congressional Gold Medal Commemoration Committee. "I applaud Senator Ayotte and Senator Begich for leading this bipartisan effort."
Ayotte and Bennet introduced
the legislation in August, coinciding with the65th anniversary of the
founding of Israel and President Peres' 90th birthday. Congressmen Joe
Kennedy (D-MA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) are cosponsoring companion
legislation in the House of Representatives.
To read a copy of the resolution, please click here.
Shimon Peres was born
in Poland in 1923 and his family emigrated to Tel Aviv in 1934. Peres
went on to serve in several high-level cabinet positions in the Israeli
government, including as Minister of Defense, Foreign Minister, and
Prime Minister - a career in public service that spans over 70 years. A
member of Israel's founding generation, he was elected president in
2007. He will celebrate his 91st birthday on Saturday, August 2.
About the Congressional Gold Medal
Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold
medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for
distinguished achievements and contributions. Each medal honors a
particular individual, institution, or event. Although the first
recipients included citizens who participated in the American
Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War, Congress broadened the
scope of the medal to include actors, authors, entertainers, musicians,
pioneers in aeronautics and space, explorers, lifesavers, notables in
science and medicine, athletes, humanitarians, public servants, and
Click on photo below to listen to Senator Reid talking about President Peres.