04/19/12

House to Vote on Congressional Gold Medal for Lena Horne

Support for singer's recognition in Congress and Senate

This week, the United States House of Representatives is expected to vote on House Resolution 1815, a bill to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to jazz great Lena Horne. The bill honors her career as both a singer and an actress, and also notes her strong support of the Civil Rights movement and her participation in the March on Washington, as well as her continued support of the NAACP.

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Lena Horne, New York 1994
By Carol Friedman
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Lena Horne

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The bill was introduced by Congressman Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from southeastern Florida, whose admiration for Lena Horne began in childhood and has remained throughout his life.
“The very first motion picture that I saw was Stormy Weather. I was in third grade and living in Jersey City, and my mother let me stay out of school to go with her. Another proud moment was to see the final tour of Ms. Horne. She came to Broward County in that final tour. To hear her sing ‘Stormy Weather’ and to know how powerfully she was still able to perform, even at that age, it was really striking. My mother and father simply adored her, so it’s personal in that sense.”

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a companion bill in the Senate, which can be brought up for a vote once two-thirds of the Senate has offered support.

“It will be faster in the Senate,” said Hastings. “We have to get it done before November, otherwise we have to start all over again. I will really work with the Senate. Sometimes they can do things overnight that it takes us a year to do, and sometimes they’ll do nothing after we’ve done something. But in measures of this kind that are non-controversial, I believe they will expedite it.”

If the Senate approves the bill, President Obama must sign it into law before it would go to the Treasury Department to determine the design of the medal. Once designed and created, the Treasury would sell copies of the medal to the public. “Every gold medal that has been made has made money for the Treasury, some have even sold out,” said Hastings. “It’s not a money-losing proposition, it’s a money-making proposition for the government.”

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