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Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Constantino Brumidi


Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Constantino Brumidi. Below are the Leader's remarks:

"Good morning. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ambassador: it is an honor to join all of you as we gather to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Constantino Brumidi. Long before I even dreamed of working in the building that we now consider Constantino Brumidi's masterpiece, I found myself transfixed by what I later learned was a Brumidi altarpiece that was while growing up in Baltimore, the Speaker mentioned Cincinnati, but I'm growing up in Baltimore where we often went to St. Ignatius Church. The painting above the altar there is a stirring work entitled "The mythical vision of St. Ignatius.' It was painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1856 -- just four years after he arrived in the United States. He came to this country when he was nearly 50. He had already established himself as a leading artist in Rome, but he embraced America with passion and pride.

"This pride is a common thread that runs through the many generations of immigrants who have come to our shores. Upon arrival, Brumidi almost immediately began reading and writing in English. To inform his work, he read the ten volumes of George Bancroft's History of the United States of America. He said: "My one ambition, and my daily prayer, is that I may live long enough to make beautiful the Capitol of the one country on earth where there is liberty.' Indeed, so proud was Constantino Brumidi of his adopted home that he signed one fresco, "C. Brumidi, Artist Citizen of the U.S.'

"Upon settling here, he took commissions at churches and from private citizens, but his life changed forever when he met Montgomery Meigs -- the engineer in charge of decorating the Capitol. Meigs had said that he did not want the Capitol to -- quote -- "starve in simple whitewash.' Constantino Brumidi proposed classical frescoes. Meigs asked for a sample of Brumidi's work. Brumidi said that since he couldn't carry around a fresco, could he paint one -- at his own expense -- somewhere in the building? Today, you can see his "job interview' in the old House Agriculture Committee hearing room -- H-144, but thank you Mr. Speaker for making it available for our proceedings right here. The piece, "Calling of Cincinnatus from the Plow' is considered one of the first, and finest, examples of fresco in America. It has so much meaning for our country.

"When Constantino Brumidi passed away, he was eulogized by Senator Daniel Voorhees of Indiana, who said: "it matters little… whether we or those who come after us do anything to perpetuate his memory. The walls of his Capitol will hold his fame fresh and ever increasing as long as they themselves shall stand.' Senator Voorhees was right. The walls around us are more stirring tributes than we could ever offer to this son of Italy whom we rightly honor today. Many of you were present in 2005 when we celebrated Constantino Brumidi's 200th birthday in a glorious ceremony in the Capitol rotunda. Imagine, he has two -- a birthday celebration in the Rotunda and now, thanks to the Speaker, a Gold Medal Ceremony here still under the dome.

"Today we honor him with the Congressional Gold Medal -- the highest honor the Congress can bestow. Thank you again Mr. Speaker for making this possible. Thank you all for joining us today. I'm now pleased to introduce the Republican Leader of the United States Senate, Senator McConnell."

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