The US Congressional Gold Medal for Professor Yunus is an Honor for Bangladesh

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Dr. Munir Quddus,USA

Speaker John Boehner's office announced that Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, and the 2006 Nobel Laureate in Peace will be formally awarded the Congressional Gold medal in a historic and glittering ceremony to be held on the US State Capital on April 17, 2013.  

Since the American Revolution in 1776, the United States Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions to humanity.  These medals are given to honor individuals, institution or an event who are widely acclaimed by Americans for their sacrifice and contributions.  All Congressional gold medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least 66% (290) of the members of the House. According to the rules of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, at least 67 Senators must cosponsor any legislation for the Congressional Gold medal before the committee will even consider it.

Given these high standards, only those who are universally recognized for their good works stand a chance of receiving this prestigious award. In today's highly charged and partisan political environment in Washington DC, where the two major parties in the United States Congress seem to agree on nothing, it is remarkable for a foreign national to receive such widespread support from both parties.  The award certainly demonstrates the high esteem Professor Yunus enjoys amongst members of the United States Congress and Senate, and among the American citizens. 

Dr. Yunus is being honored for his lifetime achievements in the cause of alleviating poverty in Bangladesh and globally.  Through his creative ideas, hard work and brilliant implementation of the idea of micro-credit throughout Bangladesh and globally, Mr. Yunus has been a drum major in the cause of helping millions of poor, especially women, take charge of their lives to overcome heartbreaking poverty.  Thanks to the unique organization he conceived and built over thirty years, more than $10 billion has been loaned to millions of small businesses owned by poor women in Bangladesh to generate incomes, savings and jobs.   His efforts, along with that of other NGOs such as BRAC, are the catalyst behind a silent and peaceful revolution that has helped Bangladesh stay on schedule in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on time including the goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015.  Today, globally, more than 150 million poor and their families, in nearly 100 countries benefit from access to collateral free loans given in small disciplined doses, and other financial services together known as micro-finance.   Since sharing the 2006 Nobel Prize in peace, instead of slowing down, Professor Yunus has redoubled his efforts to build a global consensus around the idea that business can be used for good works  coining the term Social Business to describe businesses that shun the profit maximization motto and instead commit themselves to solve societal problems such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation, among others.  Grameen bank, the mother institution, and newer businesses such as Grameen Shakti provide excellent examples of social businesses that have helped transformed lives of millions of poor in rural Bangladesh.

The previous recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include such luminaries and distinguished figures as George Washington -the first President of the United States, Harry Truman - who as President led the nation to victory during the Second World War, Mother Theresa of Calcutta - the renowned humanitarian, Nelson Mandela - who as President led South Africa peacefully away from the dark era of apartheid, Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, the Dalai Lama, Dr. Norman Borlaug - the father of the Green Revolution and winner of two Nobel Prizes, Dr. Michael Debakey - the famous heart surgeon and inventor from Houston, and Neil Armstrong - the first man on the moon. 

Not everyone who has received this award has also received the US President's gold medal, the highest civilian award the United States President can bestow.  Finally, the list of people who have been honored with these two awards, along with a Nobel Prize is very short indeed.

This award is a great honor not just for Professor Yunus, but for all Bangladeshis.  He is uniquely a product of Bangladesh, and could not have done his work on poverty alleviation outside Bangladesh. Today every citizen of Bangladesh, irrespective of party affiliation, should feel justifiably proud that a fellow Bangladeshi citizen is being honored by this most distinguished award.  Congressman and Senators, high officials of the government, ambassadors will be present to participate in the historic event on April 17 as the highest award given by the US Congress goes to a proud citizen of Bangladesh. Again and again, the name of Bangladesh will be spoken with great respect and admiration.

Bangladeshis globally will hear on the news about this special event, and stand tall as one of their own is honored by America.  For a moment, they will smile forgetting the deep and painful events of the past weeks back home, where political gridlock and violent protests have resulted in deaths and destruction of property.  For a moment, they will hope for a brighter future when new political leaders will emerge from among the young, who would lead the nation away from animosity and partisanship towards an era of shared peace and prosperity for all.    

Munir Quddus serves as the dean of the business school and professor of economics at Prairie View A&M University.  He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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