Last week, I had the honor of attending the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Professor Muhammad Yunus. Eight Members of Congress representing the leadership of both chambers and both parties, came together to pay tribute to this remarkable man. As Senator Durbin pointed out, Professor Yunus is just the seventh person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. He is also the first Muslim of any nationality to receive the award. Along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award in the United States.
The ceremony was a moving tribute to a man who has dedicated his life to eliminating poverty, first in his native Bangladesh and later across the globe. As the founder of Grameen Bank, he not only created one of the world's most instantly recognizable institutions, but he launched a revolutionary new approach to development that placed unprecedented trust in the people it assisted to chart their own course out of poverty. Grameen's success speaks for itself.
Professor Yunus was joined yesterday by many friends and family from around the world. We were all touched as his daughter Monica sang "Beautiful Dreamer" in honor of her father. Professor Yunus accepted the award on behalf of all the people of Bangladesh, noting that it was an honor bestowed not just on him but on all of the hard-working people of his native country. Our political leaders may disagree on a great many issues, but they are clearly unified in their respect for Professor Yunus' life and achievements. It was a great day for Bangladesh and an honor for all of us who call ourselves friends of Bangladesh to be there to witness history being made.