U.S. Congress Honors Prof. Muhammad Yunus with its Highest Honor

September 28, 2010 - U.S. lawmakers on Friday approved S. 846, a bill granting the Congressional Gold Medal to Professor Muhammad Yunus for his work as a pioneer of microfinance.

Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor that can be awarded in the United States, and is typically given, according to the House of Representatives’ website, “as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” American citizenship is not a requirement.

The Senate had approved the bill seeking to grant Prof. Yunus the honor in October 2009; the House approved the medal on Thursday, Sept. 23. The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Citing the estimated 24 million microenterprises in the United States, the legislation honors Prof. Yunus for “his contributions to the fight against global poverty,” and will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

In announcing the bill, Sen. Durbin said, “Dr. Muhammad Yunus believes overcoming poverty is not just a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice.  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. He is truly deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal and I am honored to call him a friend.”

Recognizing Dr. Yunus’ work over the past three decades, Rep. Holt said, “Muhammad Yunus and those who have followed in his footsteps have made it possible for the working poor to transform themselves into an entrepreneurial middle class and for beggars to become business people. We honor his achievements and his extraordinary vision.”  You can watch his remarks on the House floor.

Professor Yunus was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He becomes only the seventh person to receive all three distinctions.