The congressional practice of issuing gold medals began during the American Revolution. In fact, the Second Continental Congress made General George Washington and the officers and soldiers under his command, the first recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the liberation of Boston from British occupation.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene just introduced a bill to award Kyle Rittenhouse the Congressional Gold Medal for “protecting the community of Kenosha, Wis., during a Black Lives Matter riot on August 25, 2020.”
The Gold Medal is the highest honor Congress can award an individual or institution to express national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. In keeping with the spirit of this honor, Greene noted that “Kyle Rittenhouse deserves to be remembered as a hero who defended his community, protected businesses and acted lawfully in the face of lawlessness.”
Although honorees were historically individuals, in 1989 the American Red Cross became the first organization to be honored with a Gold Medal, “in recognition of its unselfish and humanitarian service to the people of the United States.”
Other notable honorees have included the Wright Brothers for “their achievements in demonstrating to the world the potential of aerial navigation.” Simon Wiesenthal was honored for “his dedicated action in bringing to justice Nazi war criminals who had gone into hiding at the end of World War Two.”
Other honorees include: Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Bobby Kennedy and Mother Teresa.
In August 2020 Greene’s Gold Medal hopeful travelled from Illinois to Kenosha, Wisconsin during a time of civil unrest that followed the shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer.
Rittenhouse, then 17, stated that his aim was to protect a car dealership from looting and arson and to provide medical assistance. As we are now well aware, during a street confrontation he fired a lightweight semi-automatic rifle that killed two people and seriously wounded a third.
More than a year later Rittenhouse stood trial, took the stand in his own defense and made the case that the shootings were in self-defense. Video evidence helped to solidify his argument. On Nov. 19 a jury agreed and found him not guilty on all charges.
Although he was legally acquitted, there continues to be widespread debate about whether he played any role in contributing to the circumstances in which the shootings occurred.
The United States Mint designs the Congressional Gold Medals, which vary in appearance to reflect the unique contributions of each honoree. The medals are not a meant to be used as a clothing accessory, but rather they are designed for personal or public display.
When Congressional Gold Medals were awarded to the police officers who protected the U.S. Capitol against the insurgency of January 6, 2021, four were issued for display: one for the Capitol Police, one for the D.C. police, one for display in the Smithsonian Institution and another to be displayed inside the Capitol building along with a plaque honoring all law enforcement agencies who contributed to deterring the terrorists on that fateful day.
Rep. Greene voted against awarding Gold Medals to the police officers, but rather for elevating Kyle Rittenhouse to a place in history aside Mother Teresa.
Well, bless her heart.