Today, Congress bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal–the highest civilian award given by Congress–to legendary astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., Michael Collins, and John H. Glenn, Jr for their exploration into the new frontier. Sen. John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth in 1962 and in 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins made history by landing on the moon.
As Leader Pelosi said today, “these Astronauts of the new frontier did not wait, or rest, or wish. They did not look back or behind, they moved forward and our country moved forward with them into space, into new generations of exploration and into a new frontier of discovery, progress and hope for our future.”
Leader Pelosi’s remarks at the ceremony:
“Good morning. Today’s ceremony is a celebration of imagination and creativity. It is a tribute to America’s leadership, to our legacy of exploration, our belief in discovery, our pursuit of scientific excellence and technological achievement.
“Today, we honor four courageous Americans who represented—and do still—the highest hopes of a generation, who inspired our nation to new heights of greatness and knowledge, who ignited the fires of innovation and rekindled the flames of scientific progress.
“We honor four men who embody the optimism, the energy, the spirit of the new frontier. As President John F. Kennedy said more than a half century ago: ‘The New Frontier is not a set of promises, it is a set of challenges.’ And these Astronauts not only accepted those challenges, they challenged future generations to explore new horizons, to apply our skills, our effort, our determination to any obstacles before us.
“Indeed when President Kennedy announced his determination to chart a new course into space; all Americans—and those of you who, well many of you may not have been born then, but for many of us who were there—learned a new word: Astronaut, sailors to the stars, the sailor to the stars.
“In the past age of discovery the sailors were guided by the stars. In the new age of discovery—the New Frontier—these Astronauts reached for the stars.
“As Senator John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, he paved the way—not simply for more missions into space—but for an expanded commitment to science and technology and he acted upon that commitment with his leadership in the United States Senate where he brought honor to the Congress and as he and the other recipients of the award today bring honor to this medal.
“Michael Collins piloted the command module Columbia as part of Apollo 11. On the 40th anniversary of that achievement, he recalled how he peered out the ships windows at the surface of the moon and saw the potential for students interested in science, math and engineering.
“As Neil Armstrong took one giant leap for mankind, Americans knew we could overcome any obstacle and prevail over any challenge.
“As Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon an entire nation saw a promise fulfilled and a challenge met.
“These men personified President Kennedy’s call to the students of Rice University in the address that launched the moon shot when he said: ‘The vows of this nation can only be fulfilled if we…are first and therefore we intend to be first…Our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others all require us to make this effort.’
“Those of us—again—who remember the President’s statement thought it was unimaginable that we could send a man to the moon and back safely within ten years. But these astronauts knew it was possible. They insured that we were first—first to set foot on the moon, first in science and technology and the industries and innovation, first in the pursuit of peace and partnership in search of security for our country and around the world.
“And we still must be first today. We must sustain the spirit of those flights—when Americans no longer feel bound by the limits of the past but inspired by the possibilities of the present and the frontiers of the future.
“In that same address at Rice University—which Senator Hutchinson referenced as well—President Kennedy reminded us: ‘The United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward—and so will space.’ End of quote.
“Senator John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins—these Astronauts of the new frontier did not wait, or rest, or wish. They did not look back or behind, they moved forward and our country moved forward with them into space, into new generations of exploration and into a new frontier of discovery, progress and hope for our future. For their spirit, for their actions, for their inspiration—in this time of Thanksgiving season—we thank them, we honor them, we congratulate them for receiving the highest civilian honor this country can bestow: the Congressional Gold Medal. Congratulations to our leaders. Thank you.”