US Coins

Numerous gold medals proposed during legislative sessions

Legislation recently introduced in Congress seeks separate congressional gold medals to recognize former President Donald J. Trump; Edward J. Dwight Jr., the first African-American astronaut candidate; and the First Rhode Island Regiment, for their dedicated service during the American Revolutionary War.

The bill seeking the gold medal for Trump, H.R. 8386, was introduced May 14 in the House by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Florida, to honor Trump for “his exceptional leadership and dedication to strengthening America’s diplomatic relations during his presidency.”

The bill was forwarded to the House Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs for further consideration.

H.R. 8386 references Trump’s June 30, 2019, meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, which also included South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-In; Trump’s establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and its Middle East neighbors through the Abraham Accords, a series of agreements to normalize relations.

Astronaut candidate

Sen. Michael F. Bennet, D-Colorado, introduced S. 4360 on May 16 seeking the gold medal to recognize Dwight, an American sculptor, author, former test pilot, and astronaut.

After introduction, the bill was forwarded to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The now 90-year-old Dwight is the first African American to have entered the United States Air Force training program from which NASA selected astronauts. Dwight was controversially not selected to officially join NASA, however.

Dwight first made history in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy personally invited him to join the USAF’s astronaut training program.

Dwight trained to be an astronaut, but never made it to space during his USAF service because of racism within the training program.

He eventually moved to Colorado to first become an IBM engineer and now crafts sculptures preserving black history.

In 2024, Dwight was selected for a suborbital spaceflight mission and flew on Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-25, sponsored by Space For Humanity on May 19, 2024. He became the oldest person to fly in space at 90 years 8 months and 10 days, surpassing William Shatner.

The medal would recognize Dwight’s astronaut history and artistic achievements.

The First Rhode Island

H.R. 8568, introduced May 24 by Rep. Gabe Amo, D-Rhode Island, is the second effort by a federal legislator from Rhode Island in nearly three years to recognize the Revolutionary War unit with a gold medal.

The First Rhode Island Regiment was America’s first racially integrated military unit, comprised mainly of enlistees of color.

On Feb. 9, 2022, Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, introduced H.R. 6660 that saw no action after being forwarded to the House Committee on Financial Services for further consideration.

On May 14, 2024, two Democratic Rhode Island congressmen, Gabe Amo and Seth Magaziner, jointly introduced H.R. 8568, to reopen the campaign for the gold medal for the First Rhode Island Regiment.

During the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, from 1777 to 1778, the Continental Army had difficulty recruiting quotas set by the Congress.

To supply Gen. George Washington with the men he needed, the Rhode Island General Assembly voted on Feb. 14, 1778, to allow the enlistment of “every able-bodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave.” The Rhode Island General Assembly provided that any enlisted slave “upon his passing muster before Colonel Christopher Greene, be immediately discharged from the service of his master or mistress, and be absolutely free as though he had never been incumbered with any kind of servitude or slavery.”

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