tv Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Monuments Men CSPAN January 1, 2016 11:25am-12:01pm EST
be sure to follow capitol hill producer greg caplan for daily congressional updates. c-span. live coverage of congress on tv, on the road is and online at c-span.org. >> next on american history tv, a gold medal to the monuments men. this u.s. capitol visitor ceremony is about a half an hour. [ applause ]. >> mr. speaker, members of congress, ambassadors, other
honored guests, we are gathered to celebrate the achievements of some 350 men and women from 14 nations that served in the fine arts and a archives session. we now know the monuments men. only six are still living. two were una able to travel. 175 family members of monuments men since passed are with us.
as early as 1942, george 120u9, the leader of the monuments men in europe and established their operation in post war japan argued for preservation officers during war to safeguard these things will not effect the course of battle, stout wrote. but it will affect the relations of invading armies with those people and their governments. to safeguard will show respect for the beliefs and customs of all men and will bear witness that these things belong not only to a particular people but also to the heritage of mankind. the death of two monuments men would seem to argue that art is worth the loss of life.
but monumentsmen dean keller, an artist himself who missed his son's third, fourth, and fifth birthdays while serving in italy stated otherwise. the life of one american boy is worth infinitely more than any monument i know, keller said. but like the other monuments men he risked his life to defend the very cause george stout wrote about. preservation of our shared cultural heritage. it is a dream come true for me. thanks to several authors, researchers, archivalists,
attorney who are among our audience and the long-time advocacy of the monuments men foundation for the preservation of art, the achievement of these heroes of civilization are now widely known. we live in hope that the wisdom of george stout, the monuments men and the dedication of all of those who served in the fine arts and archives session will not reside in our memory, rather, they will live in our hearts to in entire us to inspire us to do a far better job of protecting is and serving those things of knowledge and beauty we have inherited through the past. [ applause ].
good afternoon, everyone. mr. speaker, mr. leader, mr. leader. for our speaker, this is his last gold medal ceremony. so it is an emotional time for many reasons, including that. thank you, mr. speaker for making it so lovely. [ applause ]. i want to join in acknowledging the leadership of
senator menendez, senator brown, congress madam chair granger, congressman capuano, robert edsel, you're a hero to us. thank you so much. [ applause ]. you have done such a large part in preserving art as well. thank you. we're honored by your presence. in march of 1941, president
franklin roosevelt dedicated the national gallery of art just down the way from here. as a crowd gathered, struggling beneath the bombs of the blitz, nazi's occupiers looted the finest art of western europe and sacked the property of jewish families, a vast program of theft and destruction. and with the world at war, as the president roosevelt opened a new home for "the
master" works, president roosevelt spoke the fundamental truth at the heart of what the monuments men mission was. he said whatever these paintings may have been to men, and women, who looked at them generations back, today they are not only works of art. today they are symbols of the human spirit, symbols of the world the human spirit has made.
as we saw in the film president eisenhower said, these are ideals for which the war was fought. thank you, ann eisenhower, for honoring us with our presence today as well. [ applause ]. the men and women of the monuments fine arts and archives section were charged with a staggering responsibility by general is, then general eisenhower. across a whole world set ablaze construction against the last thrashes of the nazi's neoism that was the charge. ranging thousands of miles, operating with few resources and little direct authority, the monuments men often relied more on their own grit, ingenuity and power of persuasion than other things. as just a handful on of men and women, and i emphasize women,
were nephew more than a few hundred, they fought to rescue millions of artifacts and not acts as hands and protect them through the fire of the allies military advance. some gave their lives in the effort. but thanks to the monument men, the war that claimed so much, that took the lives of so many would not also destroy the creativity that connects us to the heritage of civilization. because of their perseverance is and painstaking work, they were saved for the public and/or returned to their rightful owners. the poet shelly once wrote the day is forced tomorrow is good as imagination. it is imagination that gives us the creativity and of the arts that are common humidity finds a home. we see what we have in common.
we understand other people's thinking. so this was not just about the obelisk but the creativity and imagination which is a force for good. with the last living monuments men among us, and women, we stand in the presence of greatness. thank you for your greatness of courage, greatness of commitment. sergeant harry etlinger, we will hear from you. private first class richard berencik. and lieutenant bernard taper of berkeley and my city of san francisco. you saw him in the film. i also want to acknowledge because as was said earlier, so many family members are here. just to name one more.
a maya medical rose so behalf of her aunt quesenberry. as we present the congressional gold medal to the monuments men and women, we recognize the truth of our own to add president roosevelt's wisdom at the national gallery. so happy so many are here. welcome, ambassadors, to be with us. we observe today the art of the mfaa returned the monuments they say these things stand not only as artifacts of the inspiration, devotion, and artistry of distant ages, they endure to the boundless determination, passion and creativity of the men and women we are proud to honor with the gold medal ceremony today. you're receiving it, my friends, brings luster to this honor. congratulations and thank you. [ applause ].
>> ladies and gentlemen, the democratic leader of the united states senate, the honorable harry reid. [ applause ]. >> the war against humanity is nothing sacred to the aggressors. so was the acts of power in world war ii. as the troops rolled across the globe, millions of innocent people and entire countries and cultures fall victim to this machine. but we have learned even history itself was threatened by adolf hitler and his accomplices. historic structures were bombed into owe bolivian. priceless family heirlooms were lost forever. art, culture and our own history
is being waged today. a number of friends prior to my speaking mentioned this. isis destroys the vestiges of ancient civilizations. isis destroyed the holy site believed to be the tomb of the prophet jonah. recently isis used large quantities of explosives to destroy a 2,000-year-old venetian teufrpl in syria. isis publicly executed a professor, anticities for refusing to reveal the location of more archeological treasures. in afghanistan, the taliban destroyed giant sand stone statues of buddha 1,700 years
old. timbuktu, thousands of man scripts. a small piece of humanity is lost forever. today we praise the brave men and women who fought to preserve and preserve the remnants of our past. what started as a handful, creators and educators throughout 400 servicemen and civilians, these courageous individuals safeguarded prized possessions in the midst of the world's most were heinous war. it was an honor for me before we came here to meet each of you individually. i will always remember that. the families of the hundreds of monument men and no longer with
us, i say this. you should be very proud. if your loved ones served as guardians of history. for the rest of us, it is not enough to recognize the accomplishments of the monuments men if we don't protect what is destroyed by isis, we will have failed. thank you very much. [ applause ]. >> ladies and gentlemen, the majority leader of the united states senate, the honorable mitch mcconnell. [ applause ]. >> a few years ago louisville's speed art museum unveiled an
exhibit entitled "kentucky home, the colonial revival houses of stratton o'hammond." since designing his first house in the 1920s, ham manned went on to dot the streets of louisville today. i'm pleased to report that stratton hammond is also a fellow graduate of dupont high school. he set the bar very high for those of us who followed, and not just because of his architecture. hammond joined the army in world war ii. he participated in the normandy invasion in 1944. and thanks to his background in art and architecture, he eventually settled into the
palace of versailles as monuments officer on the general eisenhower headquarters. he unfortunately passed away in 1997 and is one of the hundreds of monuments men that we honor today. these men and women came from different countries and hailed from vastly different backgrounds. but they shared a common mission. to defend cole tphaeuds civilization through crews bells of war. one would flee nazi germany the day after his barmitzvah in the salt mines of pal brawn. another, a scott born, london raised and american educated writer would become an art detective who helped recover priceless paintings. there's the native chicagoan who
would assist in the movement of recovered stolen art in western germany. and in the pacific theater, there's the american-born typist who would generate field reports for monuments men in tokyo. these four men and women came from different circumstances. they each contributed in their own way. but all advanced an important mission that could have easily been overlooked. and all of these four people are with us here today. [ applause ].
>> stratton hammond returned to his architectural firm in kentucky. though they started specializing in the effects of explosives on structural integrity. the point is that the service of the monuments men often went unheralded even though it had changed them. yet we owe the men and women who served a real debt of gratitude. without their service we may have won a war. but lost our common heritage. so the gold medal we present today is our country's way of saying that the service should not only be recognized but celebrated. it is our nation's way of saying thank you. [ applause ].
>> ladies and gentlemen, the speak of the house of the united states representativesings the honorable john boehner. >> in a few minutes we will have the presentation of the medal. at that time i will ask honorees to join us here on the stage. some of you may know this is the last time that i'm going to have this privilege. really, it's been quite a privilege. in the opening i mentioned the first person to be awarded a congressional gold medal was general george washington himself in 1776. as you can imagine, things got a little busy after that. so it took about 14 years for washington to actually get that medal. over that time, four different people were in charge of the project, including none other than thomas jefferson. jefferson kept detailed notes on how the medals should be
executed. he found a way to pay for all of us. and he had the work done in france. he then personally delivered the medal to washington in new york, along with a box of medals for his men. a chain of preservation which today's honorees can certainly appreciate. but our founders followed through on this. and on so many other things. we have this great tradition that's older than the country itself. we have this golden threuplink time when america was this radical idea that anyone could contribute to the common good. so just look at who we are honoring today. small group of people who acted purely on their own passion is and courage, reclaimed the world's most valuable treasures.
reattached the tendons to the bone, that is civilization's identity. ladies and gentlemen, we're the luckiest people on earth. we get to tell these we get to tell these stories. he get to toast our heroes. and we get to fall in love with freedom all over again. because knowing who we're from shows our children what they can be. more task is more precious than that. no reward is greater than this. so for the monuments men, the united states has struck a congressional gold medal which we will present now and always on behalf of a grateful nation. congratulations. [ applause ]
>> ladies and gentlemen, 72 years ago, in world war ii, the united states established a policy that made the preservation of artistic and cultural treasures of europe a priority. this was contrary to the policies of the leaders of our enemy, who not only procure adverti prioritized the murders of millions but also the destruction of art and culture they deemed inferior. a relatively tiny group of international men and women led by the united states and the united kingdom embarked on implementing this new policy.
the mission was dangerous. two monuments men were killed in combat to protect works of art. in the closing months of the r war, a small group discovered nothing less than the greatest blunder he ever perpetrated in the history of civilization. i'll get to the page. today, only five americans and one british now referred to as monuments men are still alive. four are here today.
i, on behalf of the monuments men alive and those who have gone to the great beyond, graciously accept this great honor that the members of congress of the united states of america have bestowed upon us today. at the end of the war, world war ii, the policies of western allies made clear that these, the victors, do not belong to the spoils of war. let us today openly restate this policy. let us today openly promote the concept. let us again and again announce to the people of the world that their culture will be cherished
as long as they respect the culture of others. god bless you. [ applause ] >> god bless america. [ applause ] this weekend on c-span's cities tour, along with our comcast cable partners, will explore the history and literary life of oakland, california. on book tv, we'll visit marcus books, known as the oldest independent black bookstore, and talk with co-owner blanch richardson about the store's
history and its importance to the community as a source of information and a meeting place during the civil rights movem t movement. >> the history of marcus bookstore is that it was started in 1960 by my parents, doctors ray and julian richardson. their purpose was to offer this resource to the community, feeling that black people needed a place to go where they could learn about themselves from other black people, mostly. so it was a service they were providing to the community, but also to the community at large, because the more other cultures know about black people, the better it is for everybody as well. on american history tv, take a trip to oakland's chinatown neighborhood and learn about the history of chinese in the east bay area. william g. wong, author of "yellow journalist," shares the
history of the area and his experience as a chinese-american growing up in the chinatown neighborhood. >> in april of 1906, a huge earthquake on the san andreas fault destroyed records at san francisco city hall, birth and death records. here was an opportunity for chinese in the bay area, san francisco and oakland, to say, hey, our birth records and death records, whether they were there in san francisco or not, are no longer existent, maybe we can come up with some ideas and some plans and some schemes to tell the government that we were born in san francisco. that began the entire paper sons scheme that allowed chinese living in the united states to say that they were born here in the united states and that they had children in china, and they would like to sponsor those
children in china and family in china to come to the united states. so a number of chinese came during the post-1906 earthquake period, including my father. >> this weekend, watch c-span cities tour to oakland beginning on saturday at 2:00 eastern beginning on book tv. the c-span cities tour, working with our cable affiliates and visiting cities across the country. this sunday night on "q&a," two-time pulitzer prize winner cartoonest michael ramirez. >> i have this figure that's kind of a conglomeration of extremist israeli settlers and a palestinian figure who, if you
notice, he's on a prayer rug, but he has his shoes on. so both these figures are sort of utilizing a false religion for a political purpose. so it just proves that once again i am an equal opportunity offender. >> sunday night at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span's "q&a." originally built in the late 1750s, the whitney plantation, located about an hour west of new orleans, has been renovated as a museum of slavery. up next on american history tv, owner and museum founder john cummings, who spent well over ten years and $8 million of his own money on the project, tells the story of the whitney plantation. mr. cummings appears in a conversation with history professor william cobb. and the museum's director of research, ibrahim sek. this two-hour event is hosted