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Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Professor Muhammad Yunus

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Professor Muhammad Yunus for his leadership in ending global poverty and empowering women.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Good morning.  Mr. Speaker, Leader Reid, Leader McConnell, my distinguished colleagues, all of our very special guests – especially our special guest, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, and his family.  Dr. Yunus, as we all have been told, is a Nobel laureate; he has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom; he is a visionary; and, Monica [Yunus] has sung to us, a dreamer – a beautiful dreamer.  He is a dreamer with a plan and that’s why we are honoring him today.

“Today, he adds another title: recipient of the highest honor Congress can bestow, the Congressional Gold Medal, quote: ‘in recognition of his contribution in the fight against global poverty.’

“Dr. Yunus is known as the ‘Banker to the Poor.’  His idea is simple, yet revolutionary – he is a disrupter – and that’s the biggest compliment I can give – to offer loans to the poor to start their own businesses.  Its success is rooted, in large part, in the power and potential of women.  I can’t help but think how happy our suffragettes are there –

[Leader Pelosi motions to Suffragette Statue in Rotunda]

– to be hearing about the empowerment of women that Dr. Yunus is responsible for.  Dr. Yunus understands that women are the caretakers and breadwinners in many families; that women are innovators and entrepreneurs; that women can be the ones to lead their families and communities out of poverty.  He recognizes that women have spent too long a time living in the shadows – and that shining a light on their abilities could provide a pathway to prosperity for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  Ultimately, women would comprise as much as 97 percent of Grameen Bank’s borrowers.  I’ve had the privilege of visiting many of these women with some of my colleagues throughout the world, in Latin America, in Asia, in Africa, and seeing their success around the world – that was beautiful – but seeing the hope in their eyes, that’s what he gave them, not only loans, but hopes.  Seeing how millions of women and their daughters in remote villages and large cities would be bringing Dr. Yunus’ idea to life.

“The women borrowers at his bank, Dr. Yunus has said, ‘struggle every day to make a living and bring hope for better life for their children.’  It is a hope that Muhammad Yunus has helped countless women realize, a just cause that has become his life’s calling.

“That calling is the product of Professor Yunus’ innovative thinking and imagination.  That cause is a central component of U.S. assistance to families beyond our borders.  Our colleagues have mentioned how his work, his leadership has served as a model.  Over the past two decades, Members of Congress have led in a bipartisan way to provide the support and funding for successful microenterprise initiatives in developing countries.  Representatives like Nita Lowey, Ben Gilman, Chris Smith, Tim Roemer, now-Senator Sherrod Brown, and Members of the New Democratic Coalition, have strengthened these initiatives over the years.  Working together, we have provided the resources to help move more than 150 million individuals, give them access to financial services and microcredit in the poorest countries of the world.  USAID has taken the lead in executing this effort, and we are proud to be joined today by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.  When President Obama appointed him, President Obama, a big supporter of micro lending, he appointed a strong advocate for empowering the world’s poorest people, in the world’s poorest communities.

“Together, we have made Muhammad Yunus’ simple idea a cornerstone of our comprehensive approach to fighting global poverty – knowing that our efforts to improve health and education are most successful when we foster new businesses and economic growth.  Thank you, Professor Yunus, for leading the way.

“For Muhammad Yunus, empowering women and alleviating poverty are essential ingredients to ending conflict and promoting peace.  As he has said, ‘peace should be understood in a human way’ – because peace begins with people; with enabling people to care for themselves and their families and take ownership over their futures.  Peace is possible when individuals have the freedom to pursue their dreams, when all people have the chance to reach their God-given potential.

“From the villages of Bangladesh to the halls of the Nobel Committee to the corridors of power across the globe, Professor Muhammad Yunus has challenged the conscience of the world.  He has inspired us in his the belief that ending poverty is possible.  Ending poverty is necessary.  Ending poverty is our moral responsibility.  For his vision, for his leadership, for his efforts to unleash the power of human potential, especially among women, it is an honor to join my colleagues to award Professor Yunus with the Congressional Gold Medal.  Thank you.”