WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. House and Senate leaders today presented a Congressional Gold Medal in honor of the Monuments Men for their heroic role in the preservation and protection of works of art and artifacts of cultural importance during and following World War II. The ceremony took place in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.
Follow are Speaker Boehner’s remarks prior to the presentation of the medal, as prepared for delivery:
“In a few moments, we will have the presentation of the medal. And at that time, I’ll ask our honorees to join us here on stage. But as some of you may know, this is the last time that I will have this privilege. And, really, what a privilege it has been.
“In the opening, I mentioned that the first person to be awarded the Medal was General Washington himself in March of 1776. Well, as you can imagine, things got a little busy after that. And it took about 14 years or so for Washington to actually get that Medal.
“Over that time, four different people were in charge of the project, including none other than Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson kept detailed notes on how the Medals should be executed. He found a way to pay for all of it, and he had the work done in France. He then personally delivered the Medal to Washington in New York, along with a box of Medals for his men.
“That’s a chain of preservation which today’s honorees can certainly appreciate.
“But because our founders followed through – on this and on so many things – we have this great tradition that’s older than the country itself. We have this golden link to a time when America was merely this radical idea that anyone could contribute to the common good.
“Just look at who we’re honoring today. This is a small group of people who, acting purely on their passion and courage, reclaimed the world’s most valuable treasures. They reattached the tendons to the bone that is a civilization’s identity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are the luckiest people on Earth. We get to tell these stories. We get to toast to our heroes. And we get to fall in love with freedom all over again.
“Because knowing who we’re from shows our children who they can be. No task is more precious than that, and no award is greater than this.
“And so, for the Monuments Men, the United States Mint has struck a Congressional Gold Medal, which we present now – and always – on behalf of a grateful nation.”