House Senate leaders presented a Congressional Gold Medal to Arnold Palmer this morning in recognition of his many contributions to the game of golf and the nation. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) began the ceremony, held in the Capitol Rotunda, by calling for a moment of silence to honor Ambassador Chris Stevens and American personnel killed yesterday in Benghazi, Libya.
Prior to the presentation of the medal, Speaker Boehner made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery:
“Arnie, I’m just going to tell a couple of golf stories, and then we’ll get you your gold medal.
What makes this medal so unique – so American – is that anyone can win it, be they a general or an artist, an astronaut or an athlete. You can start out selling paint and end up receiving Congress’s highest civilian honor in the presence of your chief rival and a commander-in-chief who was one of your closest friends.
“Not bad for an honest day’s work.
“Arnold Palmer is here today because, throughout his life, he has been a model of integrity, passion, and commitment. These are the attributes of a great golfer, and of course, a great American.
“It’s often the case with more improbable recipients that they never fathomed such an honor, and it’s no different with Arnie. He will tell you it’s never been about winning. The week he won the Amateur Championship back in ‘54 – that ‘turning point,’ as he calls it – Arnie’s caddie said there was just ‘something about him,’ ‘the way he walked and attacked the ball.’ Asked about that, Arnie said, ‘everyone wants to win’ but ‘I didn’t want to lose. I just could not. That drove me harder than anything.’
“We saw this during the final round of the 1964 Masters, when Arnie had the lead going into the 15th hole, a par five. Arnie’s got a huge pond right in front of him. Anyone else would have played it safe. Not Arnie. He pulls out a 3-wood, decides to go for the green in two. He hits the shot with that trademark, in-your-face swing, squints into the sun, looks at his playing partner, Dave Marr, and asks, ‘Well, did it get over?’ Marr says, ‘Heck, Arnie, your divot got over.’
“Vintage Arnie. That refusal to quit or let up – that give-em’-hell spirit – it’s why people always flock to watch him. And Arnie repays in kind, through gestures as humble as a handshake and as lasting as service to the community. Arnie is so involved in different associations and organizations – so involved in everything – that Bob Hope would often say, ‘Arnie has so many irons in the fire he has to play the tour with his woods.’
“Much like how Arnie didn’t set out to win, he didn’t set out to change the game … but he did. Arnold Palmer democratized golf, made us think that we, too, could do it … made us think that we could do anything really – that we just had to try.
“For Arnold Palmer, who struck his way into history and our hearts, the United States Mint has struck a gold medal, which Congress now presents on behalf of a grateful nation.”