Every year, Congress commissions
gold medals “as its highest expression of national
appreciation for distinguished achievements and
Sounds great. But I was somewhat
shocked (completely bowled over) when I read the
Congressional Gold Medal nominee list for 2003.
In the 108th Congress, Celia Cruz,
Chief Martin of the Choctaw, Arnold Palmer and Jesse
Jackson have all been nominated for Congressional Gold
The Congressional Gold Medal was
introduced in 1776. Recipients were originally limited
to U.S. citizens who had participated in American wars.
After the Mexican War, the scope was expanded to include
a variety of accomplishments as well as foreign
Since its inception only 300 medals
have been awarded. Past recipients include:
- President and
- President and Major
- President and Major
- President and Major
Ulysses S. Grant
Harry S. Truman
John J. Pershing
John Paul II
Side note: Andrew Jackson! He was
outnumbered four to one when he raced to
New Orleans on horseback to fight the British in
I grew up madly in love with this
man….well, actually, he tied with General George Custer.
Having set this stage, here is my
In the name of creatures great and
small, how could any rational person equate or even
compare the cultural achievements of Celia Cruz—a Cuban
entertainer known as “The Queen of Salsa”—with, say,
According to Representative Robert
Menendez, and 44
co-sponsors Celia Cruz escaped her patria in
1960, which incensed Fidel Castro who vowed to never
allow Cruz to return. Then she sang a few songs and
“made great contributions to the Latino community.”
In September 2003, a
resolution was introduced to the House of
Representatives to honor “la
Guarachera de Cuba” posthumously. This of course
delighted the Hispanic music industry which offered this
who recorded over 70 albums with some of the greatest
artists in music, left an impressive musical legacy.
However, her main legacy by far was her dedication to
Cruz`s main legacy was “her
dedication to Cuba”—and for this we bestow our
highest national accolade?
Would Queen Elizabeth II or Prime
Minister Tony Blair appoint as a
Knight Commander of
the British Empire a Briton in acknowledgment
of his love of—France?
The chances of this are slim and by
slim I mean a snowball`s chance in Hell.
[Peter Brimelow says:
Wouldn`t bet on that!]
For that matter, how could the
altruistic contributions of Mother Teresa, or the
ground-breaking inventions of Thomas Edison, is compared
with the golf handicap of Arnold Palmer?
Come on now—really?
The House Resolution to nominate
the Reverend Jesse Jackson read:
L. Jackson, Sr. served as the national director
Operation Breadbasket and, in 1971 in Chicago,
Illinois, founded People United to Save Humanity,
- “In 1984 Jesse L. Jackson,
Sr. founded the
National Rainbow Coalition, a national social
justice organization devoted to
political empowerment and to expanding
employment opportunities for disadvantaged people
and for communities of color.”
Then in 1996, he merged the two
And that`s pretty much it, too.
The House Resolution for Chief
Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw
- “For more than 45 years,
Chief Phillip Martin has provided extraordinary
leadership to the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians,
a federally recognized Indian tribe located in the
State of Mississippi, as the tribe has undertaken a
long and courageous journey to preserve social and
cultural identity while developing relative
And that`s pretty much it, again.
By comparison, the House Resolution
awarding Andrew Jackson the Gold Medal read:
General Andrew Jackson, commander of the Seventh
Military District, led United States forces in the Gulf
campaign against Britain. An ardent expansionist and
charismatic leader, Jackson inspired his men and the
local populace to fight and defeat the British.”
could certainly argue that all four nominees bring a
certain quality to their relative spheres of influence.
But they fall noticeably short of meeting the criteria
long established by their predecessors.
Mother Teresa nursed the
impoverished and infirmed, without compensation, for
about sixty years or basically her entire life.
Thomas Edison invented electricity,
which is to say he invented
everything. (I know, it`s not Air Jordan`s or
Pop Tarts but hey, it`s not too shabby.)
Was Celia Cruz a great salsa
singer? I have no idea, but nothing could be more
Does Jesse Jackson make
contributions to “people of color” and to a
certain extent, civil rights? Sure he does, just
Is Arnold Palmer a terrific golf
player and charitable person? Yep, he is but so is my
Has Chief Martin of the Mississippi
Choctaw salvaged his Native American tribe and
established self-sufficiency for his people? Indeed, he
Have any of these people met the
criteria for a Congressional Gold Medal?
Limited to the confines of
ethnicity or profession, their goodwill has not reached
beyond a self-imposed barrier to benefit the nation at
Generally, their good deeds have
enriched only one community or ethnic group.
Some of this is pure pandering.
Maybe honoring Arnold Palmer gets the golf vote.
But most of it is explicit ethnic
The Congressional Gold Medal is yet
another American institution debauched by
Bryanna Bevens [email
her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff
for a member of the California State Assembly.