On Tuesday at a ceremony in the United States Congress, Norman Borlaug was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest civilian award the American government can give.
Global Wheat Program Director Hans Braun represented CIMMYT at the ceremony. “It was a fantastic setting for a fantastic honor,” he said. “It was his will, his bold vision, and the solutions of science, by which Dr. Borlaug used the timeless resources of one farmer and one field to feed more people than ever before,” said speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who with President Bush presented the gold medal to Borlaug.
In his remarks Bush said “Wealthy and prosperous nations have a moral obligation to help poor and struggling people find their own paths to progress and plenty.”
In accepting the medal, Borlaug agreed with Bush and challenged the United States to stop its own funding reductions and put funds back into agricultural research for development.
“My plea today to the members of Congress and to the Administration is to re-commit the United States to more dynamic and generous programs of official development assistance in agriculture for Third World nations, as was done in the 1960s and 1970s,” he said. “Ever-shrinking foreign aid budgets in support of smallholder agriculture, and especially to multilateral research and development organizations such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) where I have worked for 40 years, as well as its sister research institutes under the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), are not in our nation’s best interest, nor do they represent our finest traditions.”
Borlaug joins civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. of the United States, Mother Teresa of India, Nelson Mandela of South Africa and World War II Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as a recipient of three prestigious awards — the Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Nobel Peace Prize.