[WASHINGTON, DC] – Late yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a bill to award Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus a Congressional Gold Medal. The bill, introduced by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT), recognizes Dr. Yunus as a leading figure in the effort to fight poverty and promote economic and social opportunity. Through his Grameen Bank, Dr. Yunus has pioneered the microcredit movement and helped hundreds of millions of people around the world break out of poverty.
“Dr. 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.”
Durbin first met Dr. 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 Dr. 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.
“Dr. 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 the highest civilian award which can be bestowed by the U.S. Congress. The decoration is awarded to individuals who perform an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States. 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.