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Raoul Wallenberg, Lena Horne, Jack Nicklaus: Gold medals for all?

April 17, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg would be among the recipients of a Congressional Gold Medal under measures recently approved in the House.
World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg would be among the recipients of a Congressional…

WASHINGTON -- World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg, singer Lena Horne and golfer Jack Nicklaus would be added to the list of Congressional Gold Medal recipients under measures that have cleared the House.

The action comes as the House prepares to vote this week to create a Mark Twain commemorative coin to raise money for organizations dedicated to preserving the author's legacy, notwithstanding his low opinion of Congress. ("It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress," Twain wrote.)

The House approved the medals for Wallenberg and Nicklaus on Monday and Horne on Tuesday. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama, Wallenberg, Horne and Nicklaus will join more than 100 other recipients of Congress' highest civilian honor -- luminaries including the likes of George Washington, the Wright brothers, Winston Churchill  and Walt Disney.

Efforts to award the gold medal to Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat made an honorary U.S. citizen in 1981 for saving tens of thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps in Hungary, comes during the year marking the centennial of his birth.

Separately, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) has introduced a resolution calling on U.S. officials to continue to press Russian authorities for a "full and complete accounting" of the fate of Wallenberg, arrested in 1945 by Soviet troops in Budapest.

"I know that Tom would be looking down today and thanking all of us," Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said on the House floor, referring to the late California Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor.

Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto), an avid golfer, pushed for awarding the gold medal to Nicklaus, 72, "in recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship in golf." Baca previously sponsored legislation that awarded a gold medal to golfer Arnold Palmer.

"We look at him as a professional golf player, but he’s given so much back to our community," Baca said of Nicklaus.

Horne, who died in 2010 at age 92, would be honored for her "achievements and contributions to American culture and the civil rights movement," according to the legislation.

The Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act would require that a surcharge from the sale of $1 and $5 commemorative coin sales be divided between the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Conn.; the Mark Twain Papers and Project at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley; the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College in New York; and the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Mo.

A similar Twain bill is awaiting Senate action.


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