Arthur E. Flegel, Recipient of the Ellis
Island Medal of Honor Award
18 May 2007
By Arthur E. Flegel, Menlo Park, California
As a 90 year old son of simple German immigrants who came
from Russia through Ellis Island in 1899, the opportunity of participating
in the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor event was indeed
a most extraordinary experience.
This gala affair was created by the NECO (National Ethnic Coalition
of Organizations) in 1986 following reconstruction and refurbishment
of both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty under the famous
Lee Iacoca, and was designed to pay tribute to the ancestry groups
which comprise America's unique cultural mosaic.
Both the United States Senate and House of Representatives have
officially recognized the Ellis Island Medal of Honor as one of
the most prestigious awards to be presented to a select group of
100 individuals annually after screening some 1,000 original applicants.
To qualify, a recipient of the award must satisfy the following
"Exemplifies a life dedicated to community service. Preserves
and celebrates the history, traditions and values of his/her ancestry
group. Dedicates himself to support and defend the values of American
life. Builds bridges between ethnic, racial and religious groups
in the USA and/or abroad. Shares his personal and professional
gifts for the benefit of humanity."
In conjunction with the two day's festivities, Friday evening,
May 11, was spent in a gala reception at the swank Metropolitan
Club in New York City which enabled the medalists with their familes
and guests to meet people from all over the nation and all walks
On Saturday, May 12, following preliminary activities for awardees
at the plush Ritz Carlton Hotel, their families and guests were
transported at 5 pm by ferry to the huge tent that accommodates
1,000 individuals which was erected for the occasion on Ellis Island
adjacent to the Statue of Liberty Island. Shortly afterwards the
honorees were also ferried to the same location and were auspiciously
escorted upon a red carpet into the ceremonial tent.
The ceremony itself was heralded with outstanding pagentry reflecting
honor guards from every branch of the military who paraded and very
expertly presented themselves accompanied by the US Military Band,
an awesome display. Excellent vocal renditions were offered by a
trio of women as well as a female soloist. Following short speeches
by NECO members and other dignitaries, the presentation of the impressive
Ellis Island Medals of Honor took place.
All medalists and their guests were ushered into the refurbished
Great Hall where our ancestors had disembarked from their long voyages
and initially went through the immigration process. Seated with
families and guests in the dining hall on the second floor that
was filled to capacity, we were again aware of the scope of this
event and its historical impact.
It was nearly midnight during a light rain when we boarded the
ferries to return to our hotels. Through the windows of the ferry
we could see the very colorful Grucci fireworks display, all of
which combined to create a lasting impression of a memorable event
in the lives of the participants as well as their families and guests.
In closing, I want to affirm that my participation in this outstanding
event may never have happened were it not for the efforts of a very
able lady and cherished friend, Kay Boynton, who not only entered
my name, but through her personal perserverance encouraged others
to submit statements of endorsement in my behalf for which I am
deeply grateful, all of which culminated in Arthur Flegel being
selected as a recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of