Yunus on Congressional medal
Lovlu Ansar, New York Correspondent,
Published: 2013-04-18 03:44:18.0 BdST Updated: 2013-04-18 04:35:08.0 BdST
Micro-credit guru Muhammad Yunus has become the seventh person to have received the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, says John Boehner, Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Dr Yunus is the first Muslim and the first Bengali to have received all these three awards.
Dr Yunus was presented the Congressional Gold Medal on 17th April afternoon (local time) in a function at the Capitol Rotunda.
This added a new chapter of glory to the history of the Bengali-speaking peoples.
More than 100 Congressmen and Senators of both houses were present at the function. They were joined by top functionaries of the Obama administration and scores of others dealing in micro-credit and the social sector.
Speaker Boehner said that the Congressional Medal awarded to Yunus had to be redesigned on the Nobel Laureate’s request to include an inscription in Bengali on one side of the medal.
Literally translated, the Bengali inscription reads “We have send poverty to the museum”.
“This is a unique way of showing love and attachment for his mother tongue,” Boehner said.
Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his contribution to the cause of global peace through his poverty alleviation efforts through micro-credit. In 2009, he received the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ from US President Barack Obama. The year after, the US Senate and House of Representatives passed a bill to award Yunus the Congressional Gold Medal for ‘his tireless efforts to serve the cause of humanity by poverty alleviation efforts through micro-credit’.
Obama signed the bill immediately but the delay in awarding Yunus the Congressional Medal was warranted by the change of design.
“This is not an individual achievement. This is an achievement for the people of Bangladesh,” Yunus told bdnews24.com in an exclusive interview after receiving the Congressional Medal. “The micro-credit model has received global acceptance because people in Bangladesh gave it all-out support.”
“I dedicated this honour to the 160 million Bangladeshis.”
The award ceremony, that lasted 90 minutes, was attended by micro-credit practitioners, human rights organisers, social workers, journalists, academics, cultural personalities and expatriate Bangladeshis.
This is the first time that a Bangladeshi has been honoured by both the Senate and the US House of Representatives.
The ceremony began with a prayer to Almighty followed by honours in military style and the national anthem.
The chaplain of the House of Representatives Reverend Patrick Conroy administered the oath.
Congressman Rush Holt and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen were joined by Senators Michael Enzi and Richard J Durbin in recounting Mohammed Yunus’ achievements in lifting 100 million people in 30 countries out of poverty through micro-credit.
Yunus’ unique achievements also drew praise from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (leader of Democratic Party in House of Representatives) Senator Mitch McConnel (leader of Republican Party in the Senate), Senator Harry Reid (leader of Democratic Party in Senate) and House of Representative’s Speaker John Boehner.
But none of them referred to the Grameen Bank created by Muhammad Yunus – or to the controversy surrounding his removal from it.
Yunus also did not raise the issue during his speech after receiving the honour.
The Nobel laureate recounted his US experience as a student trying to mobilise support for the cause of Bangladesh’s independence during the 1971 Liberation War.
“That was the beginning. Since then, I have worked ceaselessly for the cause of humanity,” Yunus said.
Yunus did refer to removal from the Grameen Bank during the luncheon hosted in his honour at the House of Representatives. But he was far from being critical of the government.
“Those who are running the Grameen Bank after I was removed are working in the right direction amidst much adversity. I wish them all the success.”
His American daughter Monika Yunus sang the “Beautiful Dreamer’ at the ceremony , which was attended, among others, by the Yunus family , Grameen's US functionaries, UN under-secretary Amira Huq, Bangladesh ambassdor to US Akramul Qader, former FBCI chief Abdul Awal Minto and New Jersey councilman and Bangabandhu Parishad’s US chapter chief Dr Nur Nabi.
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