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.
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 foreign recipients.