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tv   Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Distinguished Astronauts  CSPAN  January 1, 2016 4:30pm-5:21pm EST

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cspan.org/citiestour. you're watching american history tv all weekend every weekend on cspan 3. this new year's weekend, american history tv is featuring gold medal award ceremonies, first an award ceremony honoring astronauts john glenn, neil armstrong, michael collins, and buzz aldrin. in an hour, a 1963 nasa film biography of john glenn, the first american to orbit the earth. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the united states house of representatives
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senate subcommittee on science and space and the senior senator from the state of florida, the honorable bill nelson. >> ladies and gentlemen, the -- it said in the psalms written by david as he peered up into the heavens, "the heavens declare the glory of god. the firmament showeth his handiwork." you think of the significance of this congressional gold medal. it has only been awarded to 100. and of those in aviation and space first, think of the wright brothers, charles lindbergh, dr. robert goddard, the father of modern rocketry, and now today's honorees. and i dare say that in future years we will be giving the same ceremony and gold medal to the
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first crew that will land on the planet mars. ladies and gentlemen, the dream is alive. as a matter of fact, it's a part of us. it's our character as the american people to be adventurers and explorers. and we won't ever give that dream up. indeed, in the honoring of these astronauts, we foretell the future, the greatness, the discovery, the expressing of ousts as a people, pioneers, adventurers, and explorers. ladies and gentlemen, the dream is alive. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the
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ranking member of the united states senate's committee on commerce, science, and transportation, and the senior senator from the state of texas, the honorable kay bailey hutchison. >> we are honoring four brave, determined, resilient men. they and the astronauts who followed took enormous personal risks for our country to venture beyond earth's orbit. their missions into the unknown remind of us what can be achieved, as well as the dangers of not reaching for the stars. america urgently needs to continue our preeminence in manned space exploration. from senator glenn's flight on friendship 7 to astronauts
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armstrong, collins, and aldrin's lunar mission of apollo 11, to our recent space shuttle program to the space station, we know that space exploration is a step-by-step process. it will require leadership to get a sustained commitment of resources and a clear sense of purpose over time. look at what space exploration has brought to america. the technology and products in space science, earth science, fundamental aeronautics research have spurred tens of billions of economic activity dollars and hundreds of thousands of
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productive jobs. the use of satellites that can guide a missile into a window from three miles away has drastically lowered collateral damage and saved countless lives in conflicts and wars. we have all heard the words of president john kennedy when he spoke in 1962 at rice university. for the eyes of the world now look into space to the moon and to the planets beyond. and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of contest. of billions economic activity dollars and hundreds of thousands of productive jobs. the use of satellites that can
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guide a missile into a window from three miles away has drastically lowered collateral damage and saved countless lives in conflicts and wars. we have all heard the words of president john kennedy when he spoke in 1962 at rice university. for the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond. and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest but by a banner of freedom and peace. the president set america on the course to achieve his vision. the men here today soared into a dark sky and described from afar what they saw. in the process, they contributed to a better world here on earth. they assured america would lead the way. we owe it to them and to our nation not to abdicate our nation's role as the leader in space exploration. what they began, we are summoned to continue. thank you. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the administrator of the national aeronautics and space administration, mr. charles bolden jr. >> mr. speaker, mr. reid, mr. mcconnell, ms. pelosi, members of congress and honored guests, as we embark upon a next chapter of human space exploration, we stand on the shoulders of the
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extraordinary men we recognize here today. those of us that have had the privilege to fly in space follow the trail they forged. america's leadership in space and the confidence we can go farther into the unknown and achieve great things as a people rests on the achievements of these men. when 50 years ago this year president kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to take longer strides toward a great new american enterprise, these men were the human face of these words. from mercury and gemini, on through our landings on the moon and the apollo program, their actions unfolded that the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind. today, another new president has challenged us to reach for new heights and plan an ambitious mission to mars. just as we called on the four individuals we honor today to carry out our early achievements in space, we now call on a new generation of explorers to go where we have never gone before. as we honor these heroes, i want to recognize the hundreds of thousands of dedicated nasa
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employees and industry partners who contributed to the incredible success of the mercury, gemini and apollo programs and all that have followed and all that is yet to come. i also want to thank congress. our nation is a better place because of more than a half century of strong, bipartisan support for nasa's work. in human exploration, science and aeronautics, five members of the most recent astronaut candidate class of 2009 are with us today to pay tribute to the congressional gold medal honorees and build on their accomplishments to make similar lasting contributions to our nation's space program. this new group of astronauts stands on the shoulders of the giants we recognize and honor here today, and they will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of john glenn, neil armstrong, buzz aldrin and michael collins. it's a lasting legacy. a legacy that continues to
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unfold and transform our modern world. the inspiration they provided to generations isn't something we can measure, but we can feel in our hearts. as a nation, we would not be the same without them and their bravery. their sense of duty and dedication to public service. and their great skill at thinking on their feet. they changed the course of history. and helped our nation to achieve the bigger things to which our greater nature aspires. we owe them our humblest gratitude. on behalf of nasa and all astronauts past and present, i congratulate and thank each of
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you, john, neil, buzz and mike, our congressional gold medal recipients today. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the singer-songwriter norah jones will now sing "america the beautiful." ♪ o beautiful for spacious skies ♪ ♪ for amber waves of grain ♪ for purple mountains' majesty above the fruited plain ♪ ♪ america america ♪ god shed his grace on thee ♪ and crown thy good with
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brotherhood ♪ ♪ from sea to shining sea ♪ o beautiful for unseen skies ♪ for amber waves of grain ♪ for purple mountain majesties ♪ ♪ above the fruited plain ♪ america america ♪ god shed his grace on thee ♪ till souls wax fare as earth
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and to music hearted sea ♪ till souls wax fair as earth and air and music heart and sea ♪ [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the democratic leader of the house of representatives, the honorable nancy pelosi. >> good morning. today's ceremony is a
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celebration of the imagination and creativity. it is a tribute to america's leadership, to our legacy of exploration, our belief in discovery, our pursuit of scientific excellence, and technological achievement. today we honor four courageous americans who represented and do still the highest hopes of a generation who inspired our nation to new heights of greatness and knowledge. who ignited the fires of evolution and rekindle the flames of scientific progress. we honor four men who embody the optimism, the energy, the spirit of the new frontier. as president john f. kennedy said more than a half century ago, the new frontier is not a
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set of promises. it is a set of challenges. and these astronauts not only accepted those challenges, they challenged future generations to explore new horizons, to apply our skills, our effort, our determination to any obstacles before us. indeed, when president kennedy announced his determination to chart a new course into space, all americans and those of you who -- well, many of you may not have been born then, but for many of us who were there, learned a new word. astronaut. sailors to the stars. a sailor to the stars. in the past age of discovery, the sailors were guided by the stars. in the new age of discovery, the new frontier, these astronauts reached for the stars. as senator john glenn became the first american to orbit the earth, he paved the way for simply not just more missions into space, but for an expanded commitment to science and technology. and he acted upon that commitment with his leadership
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and the united states senate where he brought honor to the congress and as he and the other recipients of the award today bring honor to this medal. michael collins piloted the command module columbia as part of apollo 11. on the 40th anniversary of that achievement, he recalled how he peered out the ship's windows at the surface of the moon and saw the potential for students interested in science, math, and engineering. as neil armstrong took a leap one giant leap for mankind, americans knew we would overcome any obstacle and prevail over any challenge. as buzz aldrin walked on the moon, an entire nation saw a promise fulfilled and a challenge met. these men personified president
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kennedy's call to the students of rice university and the address that launched the moon shot when he said, the vows of this nation can only be fulfilled if we are first. and, therefore, we intend to be first. our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligation to ourselves as well as others all require us to make this effort. those of us, again, who remember the president's statement, thought it was unimaginable that we could send a man to the moon and back safely within ten years. but this -- these astronauts knew it was possible. they ensured that we were first. first to set foot on the moon, first in science and technology
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and the industries of innovation. first in the pursuit of peace and partnership and first in security for our country and around the world. and we still must be first today. we must sustain the spirit of those flights when americans no longer feel bound by the limits of the past but inspired by the possibilities of the present and the frontiers of the future. and that same address at rice university, which senator hutchison referenced as well, president kennedy reminded us. the united states was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. this country was conquered by those who moved forward, and so will space. end of quote. senator john glenn, neil armstrong, michael collins, buzz aldrin, these astronauts of the new frontier did not wait or rest or wish.
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they did not look back or behind. they moved forward and our country moved forward with them, into space, into new generations of exploration, and into a new frontier of discovery, progress and hope for our future. for their spirit, for their actions, for their inspiration in this time of thanksgiving season, we thank them. we honor them, we congratulate them for receiving the highest civilian honor this country can bestow -- the congressional gold medal. congratulations to our leaders. thank you. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, the republican leader of the united states senate, the honorable mitch mcconnell. >> in early 1959, about six months after congress formally
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created the national aeronautics and space administration, a group of test pilots was summoned to a top secret briefing at the pentagon. once there, they were told that nasa was developing a program aimed at putting a man in orbit, and that it needed volunteers. the training would be long, dangerous, and unlike anything anyone had ever experienced. and those who were chosen would be called astronauts. a 37-year-old marine and father of two named john glenn was among those who attended that meeting. he volunteered without hesitation. three februarys later, john glenn found himself circling the earth from the heavens at 17,500
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miles an hour staring at the sunset that was even more spectacular than he ever imagined as the nation looked nation looked on. in new york thousands of commuters stood still in grand central station to watch the takeoff and even walter cronkite allowed himself a little show of national pride from the broadcaster's chair as glenn's rocket lifted from the earth, cronkite rooted for the home team saying "go, baby, go." the context of all this was important. five years earlier the soviet union had beaten us into space with an unmanned satellite, an achievement that prompted khrushchev to quip that now the u.s. sleeps under a soviet moon.
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and that's where the other three men we honor today come in. seven years after glenn circled the earth neil armstrong, buzz aldrin and michael collins put to rest any doubt of the position of the united states in the world. the cold war was now being fought in space, and these men proved that the u.s. was winning. it wasn't easy. as president eisenhower had stated at the outset america's space program would be civilian rather than military led so no one would doubt our intentions. but this also meant that it would be conducted in the open so every hitch and holdup could be seen and scrutinized. and this is just as it should have been. these missions spanning two democratic and two republican administrations showed not only the power of the four men we honor today, they showed the power of the collective efforts
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of a nation united in a common purpose. it took vision. it took will. it took leadership. it took guts. and it took the remarkable courage of john glenn, neil armstrong, buzz aldrin and michael collins. now, they'll tell you they're not heroes. don't listen to them. america's only as strong as the citizens we produce, and here are four of the best. >> ladies and gentlemen the majority leader of the united states senate the honorable harry reid. >> a couple points of personal privilege. first of all, norah jones, i'm one of your big fans and it's
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such a pleasure to be able to listen to you in such close proximity with your beautiful voice and your wonderful presentation. secondly, i've been so impressed with what this man has done in space and what he's done on earth. could we all give a round of applause to mark kelly? mark, you could at least stand so we could all see you. it's been a pleasure over the
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years to meet neil armstrong, michael collins and buzz aldrin. but i'm going to spend some time today talking about someone i not only met but had the good fortune of serving with in the united states senate, john glenn. barbara mikulski's here and she will remember as i have as a couple of new, young senators that we were going on a congressional delegational trip led by john glenn and ted stevens. it was a wonderful trip. so, to be with these two fine senators, i was so happy that i could go. i can remember many things about that trip, and i'll talk just about a couple of things. we left vienna to go to czechoslovakia as it was called at that time. when we came to the border the iron curtain was still down. they stopped the train and
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brought out the dogs and the people with their rifles. and they were looking around and under the train, and we were asked to get out of the train. as things calmed down a little bit, one of the soldiers looking around so no one would see what he was doing came over to john glenn quickly and said, could you give me an autograph? we then went to prague and had a meeting with some government officials there. as we were walking up the street, someone came out of an apartment building with an encyclopedia and had it open to john glenn's picture and came to him and said, would you autograph over your picture? we focus on how important these astronauts are to us here in the united states. but keep in mind how important they have been to people all around the world. soviet soldier on a train going
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into czechoslovakia, a person of minimal status i guess we would say in prague who wanted to be able to look at john glenn and say, i have this picture, would you sign it for me. but john glenn's prowess has been more than just this trip to czechoslovakia and the other places we went. i've been so impressed with who he is and what he's done. his personal life. but also one story i have to tell because it's one of my favorite of all-time. we had some people come to visit me. my office was at that time in the hart building. and my -- they were people, young teenagers from nevada, who had been in the double dutch jump roping championship
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nationwide and so they were in one of the hallways there of the hart building. big, wide, spacious area. and they were jumping, two ropes going at the same time. and these kids looked so great, jumping in and out of that rope. they said try it, to me. and i tried it, and i made a small fool of myself. but i didn't realize this, but john glenn had been watching these kids do the double dutch jump roping. and he came over. he was just a kid then. he was probably only about 75. he came over, and he said, do you mind if i try this? he was just like one of the teenagers, double dutch jump roping. so, i have so many fond memories of john glenn and the role model that he has been for me as a senator. sometimes it seems that the more
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we learn about the great reaches of the heavens, the more we have left to learn. so much left to learn. but space travel has taught us as much about the planet we call home as it has about the mystery that lies beyond. and for that we have these four pioneers to thank. thank you very much. >> ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the united states house of representatives, the honorable john boehner. >> well, i think i'm just going to go ahead and say what i think everybody here is thinking. this is pretty cool. when the prime minister of australia addressed the congress last march, she said that as a
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little girl, watching the men land on the moon, proved to her that americans could do anything. she grew up in adelaide, a city east of perth, whose residents turned on their lights on to greet john glenn the night that he flew back across australia. now, the world looks to america because we are free. and it's to our values which people aspire. one of those values is humility. the idea that you're part of a cause greater than yourself, that nothing in life is a "do it
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yourself" project, though an often unsung virtue, humility figured prominently in the pinnacle of human achievement. to this day john glenn insists he was no hero, just a patriots serving his country, which in those days was gripped by the notion that america and democracy itself had fallen behind. now, these were daring missions. but they were vital missions as well. neil armstrong was once asked, why did you, this one man, choose to speak for all when you set your foot on the lunar surface? as it turns out, there was no script. there were no notes. when the moment came, and neil's thoughts turned to the 400,000 people who worked on the project, the designers, the testers, the engineers, the navigators, all who devised that one small step.
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he said, and i quote, that he knew it would be a big something for all those folks and a lot of others who weren't even involved in the project, and so it was. buzz aldrin far from being caught up in adrenaline paused to reflect. he took out a wafer, a thimble full of wine and observed communion on the moon just as columbus had done when he reached the new world. buzz invited everyone to give thanks in his or her own way and when neil and buzz planted the stars and stripes on the moon, there was one person who couldn't observe the scene live. that's all right, i don't mind, said michael collins from "apollo 11's" command module. his attention focussed on making sure the pioneers would get home. two years ago mike said this, heroes abound, but don't count
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astronauts among them. we worked very hard. we did our jobs to near perfection. but that's what we'd been hired to do. when americans take on our work with humility and dedication, there truly is nothing that we can't accomplish. we can do anything if we humble ourselves and if we've got the right stuff. gentlemen, heroes or not, your acts were heroic. and today we add you to the many -- to your many honors with respect and gratitude the congressional gold medal.
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>> please remain seated for the presentation of the congressional gold medals by the united states congress.
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>> ladies and gentlemen, the first person to land a spacecraft upon the moon and the first person to set foot upon its surface, mr. neil armstrong.
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>> thank you so much. mr. speaker, mr. reid, mr. mcconnell, ms. pelosi, distinguished guests, we gather in this remarkable monument to american history. this room connecting the houses of congress. this room where ideological differences fade in the presence of the overpowering force of pride in what we do and what americans have achieved. it's a privilege to be in this
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rotunda. high above us just below the windows stretches a frieze with 19 panels depicting important events in american history. the most recent of them, number 19, just above me here, depicts the first successful flight of a man in a powered aircraft. by the brothers wright 108 years ago. the depiction in addition to the craft and the responsible individuals includes an american bald eagle carrying an olive
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branch. wilbur and orville wright were the 45th recipients of the congressional gold medal and the first for achievements in the world of flight. subsequently, congressional gold medals have been presented nine times for aviation and rocketry achievements. today for the first time, they have been given for achievements in space flight. in an appropriate coincidence, "apollo 11's" mission emblem and crew patch also featured an american bald eagle carrying an olive branch. the "apollo 11" crew is honored to receive the congressional gold medal and accept on behalf
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of our fellow "apollo" teammates, all those who played a role in expanding the human presence outward from earth and all those who played a role in expanding human knowledge of the solar system and beyond. we thank the congress very much. >> ladies and gentlemen the former united states senator from the state of ohio and the first american to orbit the earth, the honorable john glenn.
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>> thank you. >> thank you all very, very much. leaders of the house and senate, members of congress, ladies and gentlemen, first thanks to each of you for being here today to share this very, very special occasion with us. from our founding days americans have been motivated by curiosity, about the new and the unknown, whether it was geographical exploration to push back the frontiers of a continent or microexploration in our laboratories. that curiosity in research coupled with an education system that let all our citizens
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benefit and contribute were the twin engines of progress that catapulted america into world preeminence. but there were other frontiers never before believed to be approachable. and for many, many thousands of years people had looked up and wondered, they'd been curious, about what was up there. and we must consider ourselves among the most fortunate of all generations, for we have lived at a time when the dream became a reality -- when we finally could travel above the atmosphere around the earth, where we could establish laboratories in space and do research. and for the very first time in history, leave human footprints on someplace other than earth.
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as neil and buzz and mike made their epic journey. the message they left on the lunar surface could be said of all our manned space travels. we came in peace for all mankind. these dreams were brought to life by one of the most dedicated and capable teams ever put together -- workers, technicians, engineers, scientists. honored as we are today, we certainly share this recognition with that great team. almost 50 years ago following the orbital flight of "friendship 7" i was very privileged to address a joint session of congress. and i closed my remarks then with words i will repeat today. as our knowledge of the universe
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in which we live increases, may god grant us the wisdom and guidance to use it wisely. thank you. >> ladies and gentlemen, please remain standing as the chaplain of the united states senate, dr. barry black, gives the benediction. >> let us pray. oh, lord of hosts, you stretched out the heavens like a curtain.
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thank you for this opportunity to honor four pioneers. lord, you empowered them to enter a new frontier, slipping the surly bonds of earth, to reach out and touch your sovereign face. may the inspiration we receive from these well-lived lives save us from the love of ease, which chooses the comfortable way, and from the procrastination which puts things off until it's too late. bless and keep us in all of our tomorrows, in our going out and coming in, in our rising up and lying down, from this time forth
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even forevermore, amen. ♪ >> ladies and gentlemen, please remain at your seats for the departure of the official party.
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>> ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today's ceremony. thank you, and have a nice day.
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this weekend on c-span's cities tour, along with our comcast cable partners, we'll 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 movement. >> the history of marcus bookstore is that it was started in 1960 by my parents drs. ray and julia 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. and so it was -- it was a service they were providing to the community, but also to the
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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 china town neighborhood and learn about the history of the 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
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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 saturday at noon eastern on c-span 2's book tv and sunday afternoon on american history tv on c-span3. the c-span cities tour working with our cable affiliate and visiting cities across the country.
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>> c-span takes you on the road to the white house and into the classroom. this year our student cam documentary contest asks students to tell us what issues they want to hear from the presidential candidates. follow c-span's road to the white house coverage and get all the details about our student cam contest at cspan.org. we continue our look now at congressional gold medal ceremonies. the medal is the nation's highest civilian honor. in honor of the 50th anniversary of the birmingham bombings in 2013 then house speaker john boehner, senate majority leader harry reid and other members of congress presented the congressional gold medal to the four young girls who were killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th street baptist church in birmingham, alabama. the ceremony took place in the u.s. capitol statutory hall. it's about an hour, 15 minutes.

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