President Bush Gives Final Approval to Congressman Rangel’s Legislation Conferring Highest Congressional Award on African-American WWII Heroes
The legislation conferring the Congressional Gold Medal on the Tuskegee Airmen in recognition of their heroism in World War II was signed into law today, illness April 11 2006, generic Congressman Charles Rangel announced.

“This is the culmination of a huge effort by many people to grant the recognition to the Tuskegee Airmen that they have earned and so well deserve, this ” Congressman Rangel said. “I especially want to thank Senator Carl Levin of Michigan who carried this bill successfully in the Senate and worked with me every step of the way to get us to this day.”

The bill was signed by President George Bush at 10:00 a.m. today in a private bill-signing at the White House. It was passed in its final version by the House of Representatives on February 28, 2006, and by the Senate on March 27th.

The Gold Medal, Congress’ most distinguished civilian award, will be presented to the Tuskegee Airmen, collectively, in ceremonies in the U.S. Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. later this year. As authorized under the law, the President will present the specially designed Gold Medal on behalf of Congress. Designed by the U.S. Mint, the award medal containing 15-ounces of gold will be housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and made available for temporary display at museums around the country. Bronze replicas will be stamped for sale to the public.

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of 994 African American pilots who gained fame during WWII for their heroism escorting American bombers in raids over Europe and North Africa. Their distinguished service is credited with influencing President Truman to desegregate the U.S. military. Among the surviving Airmen living in New York are: educator Roscoe Brown, broadcast executive Percy Sutton, and business executive Lee Archer.

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Background Information on 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 foreign recipients.

In addition to the requirement that all Congressional Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds (290) of the Members of the House, specific standards are set forth by Rule VII (c)(vii) of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services’s Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy when considering such legislation. Additionally, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires that at least 67 Senators must cosponsor any Congressional Gold Medal legislation before the committee will consider it.

The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is the highest award which may be bestowed by the Legislative Branch of the United States government. The decoration, commonly referred to simply as the Congressional Medal of Honor, or Congressional Gold Medal, is awarded to any individual who performs an outstanding deed or act of service to the security, prosperity, and national interest of the United States of America. The recipient need not be an American citizen.

The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is considered the United States Congress equivalent to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Both decorations are generally considered to hold the same degree of prestige (though significantly fewer Gold Medals have been awarded), with the difference being that the Freedom Medal is personally awarded by the President of the United States and the Congressional Gold Medal is awarded in the name of the U.S. Congress.

Legislation bestowing the Congressional Medal of Honor 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 of Honor is created by the United States Mint to specifically commemorate the person and achievement for which the medal is awarded. Each medal is therefore different in appearance and there is no standard design for the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is also considered “non-portable”, meaning that the medal is not meant to be worn on a uniform or other clothing, but rather displayed much like a trophy.

The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor is a completely separate decoration from the Medal of Honor which is a military award for extreme bravery in action. Another similarly named decoration is the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, presented by NASA for extreme accomplishment to the mission of United States space exploration.

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