Every year, Congress commissions gold medals "as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions."
Sounds great. But I was somewhat shocked (completely bowled over) when I read the Congressional Gold Medal nominee list for 2003.
In the 108th Congress, Celia Cruz, Chief Martin of the Choctaw, Arnold Palmer and Jesse Jackson have all been nominated for Congressional Gold Medals.
The Congressional Gold Medal was introduced in 1776. Recipients were originally limited to U.S. citizens who had participated in American wars. After the Mexican War, the scope was expanded to include a variety of accomplishments as well as foreign citizens.
Since its inception only 300 medals have been awarded. Past recipients include: http://www.congressionalgoldmedal.com/
Side note: Andrew Jackson! He was outnumbered four to one when he raced to New Orleans on horseback to fight the British in 1814.
I grew up madly in love with this man….well, actually, he tied with General George Custer.
Having set this stage, here is my question:
In the name of creatures great and small, how could any rational person equate or even compare the cultural achievements of Celia Cruz—a Cuban entertainer known as "The Queen of Salsa"—with, say, Andrew Jackson?
According to Representative Robert Menendez, and 44 co-sponsors Celia Cruz escaped her patria in 1960, which incensed Fidel Castro who vowed to never allow Cruz to return. Then she sang a few songs and "made great contributions to the Latino community."
In September 2003, a resolution was introduced to the House of Representatives to honor "la Guarachera de Cuba" posthumously. This of course delighted the Hispanic music industry which offered this description:
"Cruz, who recorded over 70 albums with some of the greatest artists in music, left an impressive musical legacy. However, her main legacy by far was her dedication to Cuba."
Cruz`s main legacy was "her dedication to Cuba"—and for this we bestow our highest national accolade?
Would Queen Elizabeth II or Prime Minister Tony Blair appoint as a Knight Commander of the British Empire a Briton in acknowledgment of his love of—France?
The chances of this are slim and by slim I mean a snowball`s chance in Hell. [Peter Brimelow says: Wouldn`t bet on that!]
For that matter, how could the altruistic contributions of Mother Teresa, or the ground-breaking inventions of Thomas Edison, is compared with the golf handicap of Arnold Palmer?
Come on now—really?
The House Resolution to nominate the Reverend Jesse Jackson read:
Then in 1996, he merged the two organizations.
And that`s pretty much it, too.
The House Resolution for Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reads:
And that`s pretty much it, again.
By comparison, the House Resolution awarding Andrew Jackson the Gold Medal read:
"Major General Andrew Jackson, commander of the Seventh Military District, led United States forces in the Gulf campaign against Britain. An ardent expansionist and charismatic leader, Jackson inspired his men and the local populace to fight and defeat the British."
One could certainly argue that all four nominees bring a certain quality to their relative spheres of influence. But they fall noticeably short of meeting the criteria long established by their predecessors.
Mother Teresa nursed the impoverished and infirmed, without compensation, for about sixty years or basically her entire life.
Thomas Edison invented electricity, which is to say he invented everything. (I know, it`s not Air Jordan`s or Pop Tarts but hey, it`s not too shabby.)
Was Celia Cruz a great salsa singer? I have no idea, but nothing could be more irrelevant.
Does Jesse Jackson make contributions to "people of color" and to a certain extent, civil rights? Sure he does, just ask him.
Is Arnold Palmer a terrific golf player and charitable person? Yep, he is but so is my grandmother.
Has Chief Martin of the Mississippi Choctaw salvaged his Native American tribe and established self-sufficiency for his people? Indeed, he has, but...
Have any of these people met the criteria for a Congressional Gold Medal?
Limited to the confines of ethnicity or profession, their goodwill has not reached beyond a self-imposed barrier to benefit the nation at large.
Generally, their good deeds have enriched only one community or ethnic group.
Some of this is pure pandering. Maybe honoring Arnold Palmer gets the golf vote.
But most of it is explicit ethnic pandering.
The Congressional Gold Medal is yet another American institution debauched by diversity.
Bryanna Bevens [email her] is a political consultant and former chief of staff for a member of the California State Assembly.