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–by Sarah Lewis

With all of the Inaugural buzz surrounding the District this week, it’s important to take time to reflect upon other important people our nation honored this week.

Obamas and BIdens in Capitol rotunda

After his 2nd inauguration, President Obama, along with his wife Michelle, the Bidens, Sen. Lamar Alexander (right), and Rep. Eric Cantor (behind Michelle Obama), paused at the Martin Luther King Jr. bust in the Capitol’s rotunda. (Bill Clark)

Front of the King Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal has been bestowed by Congress since the American Revolution as its highest form of national appreciation. This award is given to those with the most distinguished achievements and contributions to society. Each of these medals is awarded to a particular individual or institution. All Congressional Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds of the Members of the House, and 67 senators must cosponsor any legislation before it can be considered by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

In 2004, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, along with his wife Coretta Scott King. They were recognized as the first family of the civil rights movement. Through his teachings of nonviolence, Dr. King was able to inspire the American people to stand up against segregation and racial injustice. Despite Dr. King’s tragic assassination, his teachings lived on through Mrs. King as she devoted herself to developing the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. This center serves not only as a memorial to Dr. King, but also provides individuals with training programs in his philosophies and methods.

Back of the Kings’ Congressional Gold Medal

The Congressional Gold Medal is created by the United States Mint, specifically designed to commemorate each recipient. Like the accomplishments of those who receive the award, each medal is unique. The back of Dr. King’s medal reads “Wilberforce University”. Wilberforce was a primary stop on the Underground Railroad and is also the site of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center.

It is no easy task to receive an award of such distinction. Any thoughts as to who deserves the next medal?

Sources:
House History Office
National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center
Law
authorizing Congressional Gold Medal for the Kings

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