NEW YORK, May 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Journalist Meredith Vieira, New York Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, U.S. Representative Ted Poe (R-TX), twelve members of the U.S. Military and Washington, D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier were among the 101 outstanding Americans who received the 2015 Ellis Island Medals of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations-NECO. A complete list of Medal recipients can be found at http://www.neco.org/medal-of-honor/2015-medalists.html.
The award ceremony was co-hosted by Marvin Scott and Tamsen Fadal, both of PIX 11, on Saturday, May 9 at Ellis Island. The event featured performances from the World War II museum's Victory Belles and a surprise appearance by the 82nd Airborne Division All-American Chorus.
Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of NECO, addressing the crowd gathered to celebrate the honorees, said, "The Ellis Island Medals of Honor not only celebrate the men and women on this stage, but all Americans and our shared immigrant legacy. The diversity of the American people is one of our greatest strengths. Representing more than 40 ethnicities, we recognize the achievements of our leaders and warriors, our healers and scientists, our artists and thinkers. The common thread running through all of our honorees is not race, creed or color, but one of excellence, achievement and humanity. Medalists, your success is America's success. You are the American dream.
Since Ellis Island opened in 1892, the United States has been the prime destination for immigrants from around the world. I have personally experienced that journey and I speak to you not only as the Chairman of NECO, but also as an immigrant myself.
One of the proudest days in my life was when I took the oath to become an American citizen. I have never stopped being grateful to this wonderful country for embracing me and allowing me the opportunity to reach my dreams. I often say, 'You should never take for granted the privilege of being an American', and I mean that from the bottom of my heart."
The Ellis Island Medals of Honor embody the spirit of America in their celebration of patriotism, tolerance, brotherhood and diversity. The Medal recognizes individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate their wealth of knowledge, indomitable courage, boundless compassion, unique talents and selfless generosity; all while maintaining the traditions of their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America.
As always, NECO remains dedicated to the maintenance and restoration of America's greatest symbol of its immigrant history, Ellis Island. Since the Medal was founded in 1986, NECO has honored such distinguished and diverse Americans including: six Presidents of the United States; Nobel Prize recipient Elie Wiesel, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, Hon. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace, Quincy Jones and Mia Farrow, all who have distinguished themselves through their significant contributions to this country.
The Ellis Island Medal of Honor ranks among the nation's most prestigious awards. The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have officially recognized the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, and each year the recipients are listed in the Congressional Record.
For more information on NECO and the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, visit: http://www.neco.org/medal-of-honor/