Monday Morning Brief for March 28, 2022: Too many gold medals?

March 28, 2022 2 min read

Monday Morning Brief for March 28, 2022: Too many gold medals?

By William T. Gibbs , Coin World, Published: Mar 28, 2022, 7 AM

Congress has approved gold medals recognizing Americans and others for their contributions to the nation and the world since the Revolutionary War. The medals recognize extraordinary accomplishments.

For the first half-century or so, such honor was limited to leading Army and Navy commanders, saluted in gold for their victories during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and other military/naval conflicts. Congress began honoring individuals in other fields of endeavor in the 19th century, finally recognizing that Americans contributed to the nation in ways other than serving on the field of battle or in naval engagements on inland lakes and on the ocean.

For more than 100 years, though, everyone honored with a congressional gold medal was White — not surprising given the widespread marginalization of people of color in American society. That changed in the late 20th century as society changed and careers in government, military, education and the health field, and private businesses became more inclusive. That was right for society; that was right for the congressional gold medal program. It remains right today.

However, there is a problem. As I have written before, legislation seeking congressional gold medals has gotten out of control. Hardly a week goes by without one or more bills being introduced before Congress. Not only that, the introduction of what I want to call “current events legislation” is growing as well. Such legislation seeks to honor individuals involved in recent events, with no time for reflection on the long-term significance of their place in history. And sometimes, such legislation seems to have a purely political motive, though seeing such motive may be driven by one’s own views of the world today.

I believe that Congress should revisit the nature and scope of the congressional gold medal program. New guidelines are needed.

Congress should set both a minimal time period for reflection on the merits of recognizing recipients in the news today and a “statute of limitations,” before and after which the parties are not eligible for such recognition.

Congress should also conduct public hearings on all congressional gold medal legislation, inviting experts in fields related to a particular bill’s theme to weigh in on the merits of the proposed legislation.

Congressional gold medals are an important means of recognizing greatness and honoring achievements. Do not weaken the honor by issuing too many medals or recognizing individuals who are unworthy of such recognition.

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