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Pelosi: 'Today We Give the Tuskegee Airmen the Heroes' Welcome They Have So Long Deserved'

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke today at the Tuskegee Airmen Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol. 

Below are her remarks:

'In 1942, the African American paper, The Pittsburgh Courier, called for a double victory campaign: victory in the fight against fascism abroad, and victory in the fight against racism at home.

'Today, we come together to pay tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, who with planes and the power of their example - fought against both of these foes, foreign and domestic.

'And as we honor them with the Gold Medal today, we take another in a long series of steps toward victory at home. 

'From the classrooms of Tuskegee, Alabama to the beaches of Sicily, and the skies of North Africa, the Tuskegee Airmen brought the aspirations and pride of their families, their churches, and their entire communities as they so bravely answered the call to serve our nation.

'And the trust of their communities in them was never misplaced.

'The men of the 332nd never lost one bomber under their escort - the only fighter group in our nation's history of which that can be said.  The more than 15,000 sorties and 1,000 missions they flew proved they were great airmen.

'But their patriotism, character, and courage, proved they are great men.

'When Time magazine finally gave coverage to the Airmen in 1944, they wrote: 'They have the quiet, assured, professional air of any proved combat outfit. They look, talk and act like any other group of airmen with seven months' of combat flying under their belts. Their ground crews are tops; their maintenance as good as any in the Air Forces.'

'That praise was long overdue then, and this Gold Medal ceremony is long overdue now.

'I thank Chairman Charlie Rangel and Chairman Carl Levin for their leadership in giving us the opportunity to honor the Tuskegee Airmen.

'Since 1776, the Congressional Gold Medal has been awarded to the finest public servants, the bravest military leaders, and the boldest thinkers, on behalf of a grateful country. 

'Today, the Tuskegee Airmen join their ranks. 

'We gather today knowing that this group is not complete - that many of the Tuskegee Airmen are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal today posthumously. And today, we also remember the 66 members of the Tuskegee Airmen who never came home.    

'As President Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address: 'That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.'

'The cause for which all of the Tuskegee Airmen were bravely willing to give their last full measure of devotion was not just victory in Europe.  It is the American ideal of equality, which is both our nation's heritage and our hope.  Today, we all rededicate ourselves to that cause. 

'The Tuskegee Airmen left a segregated country to fight in war, and unfortunately they returned to one.  Though Hitler was defeated, prejudice was not.

'Their true heroism lies in fighting for the values of America - equality, justice, and opportunity - even when those values were not fully extended to them.

'Today, we try to right that wrong.

'And now, here in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, we give the Tuskegee Airmen the heroes' welcome they have so long deserved.'