Durbin Nominates Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Muhammed Yunus for Congressional Gold Medal

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) today nominated Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus for a Congressional Gold Medal. Dr. Yunus, who was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized as a leading figure in the effort to fight poverty and promote economic and social opportunity. Through his Grameen Bank, he pioneered the microcredit movement and helped 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 the greatest successes in recent years is microcredit programs targeted toward poor women. Most microcredit programs have repayment rates greater than 95 percent and have helped many women change their lives and those of their families.


“Dr. Muhammad Yunus has given dignity and hope to so many through his Grameen Bank – the people’s bank. He believed if you loaned the poorest people in the world a small sum of money that you could change their lives dramatically and they would repay the loan. Thirty years later, Dr. Yunus's theory of microenterprise is now a phenomenon which has touched 100 million people around the world. It is hard to think of any single idea in our lifetime which has lifted up so many people,” Durbin said.


Although microcredit is most commonly associated with the developing world, Dr. Yunus’ work has improved the lives of tens of millions people in the United States. The U.S. Small Business Administration has made over $318 million in microloans to entrepreneurs since 1992.


Durbin and Bennett also met with Yunus today to discuss the work of Grameen Bank to focus on improving health care for the very poor in Bangladesh. Yunus is developing a health care network that will operate at low cost using mobile phone technology. His network will allow villagers to transmit medical information and photos over the Internet via cell phones to a far-away doctor's computer for better diagnosis. Patients then will be treated locally.


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 recipient need not be an American citizen. 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.