A former Middle Tennessee State University professor is scheduled to receive the highest civilian award presented by the U.S. Congress for “his contributions to the fight against global poverty.”
Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, will be presented with the Congressional Gold Medal at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, April 17, at a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
From 1969 to 1972, Yunus was an assistant professor of economics at MTSU, where he taught both macroeconomics and microeconomics.
He and his brainchild, the Grameen Bank in his native Bangladesh, share the Nobel for what that selection committee called “their efforts to create social and economic development from below.”
Yunus’ concepts have been hailed as practical ways to alleviate poverty worldwide via microcredit loans to low-income people without collateral and social businesses created for the public good rather than private profit.
Congress has commissioned gold medals for individuals and groups since the American Revolution, beginning with the Continental Congress’ acknowledgement of George Washington in 1776.
While most of the recipients were military leaders in the republic’s early years, the list of honorees has been expanded to include captains of industry, inventors, entertainers, clergy, explorers and humanitarians.
Recent honorees have included astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and John Glenn; the Native American code talkers of World War II; the Dalai Lama; cardiac surgical innovator Dr. Michael E. Debakey; Burmese opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi; and Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg.
All legislation regarding Congressional Gold Medals must be cosponsored by at least two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives. In addition, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee requires that the legislation be co-sponsored by 67 senators.
Congress approved the measure to award Yunus the Congressional Gold Medal on Oct. 5, 2010. The legislation, which specifies that the award is “in recognition of his contributions to the fight against global poverty,” notes that Yunus’ work has had a “particularly strong impact on improving the economic prospects of women, and on their families.”
“There are now an estimated 24 million microenterprises in the United States, accounting for approximately 18 percent of private (nonfarm) employment and 87 percent of all business in the United States, and the Small Business Administration has made over $318 million in microloans to entrepreneurs since 1992,” the act notes.
Dr. Kiyoshi Kawahito, a former MTSU professor of economics and a former colleague of Yunus, says he plans to attend the ceremony. To contact Kawahito, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Gina K. Logue (email@example.com)