On May 8, Rod Gilbert
was awarded the 2010 Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO). The annual honor, established in 1986, is given out each May and recognizes a group of American citizens that exemplify a life dedicated to community service, dedicate themselves to supporting the values of American life, and preserve and celebrate the history, traditions, and values of their ancestry.
|In his Ellis Island Medal of Honor acceptance speech, Canadian-born Rangers great Rod Gilbert said hearing the anthem before every Blueshirts game helped inspire him to pursue U.S. citizenship. |
The Ceremony took place on Ellis Island on Saturday evening and honored 106 recipients who included actress Jane Seymour, former New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza, actor Robert Loggia, actor and director James Keach and former "Sopranos" star Dominic Chianese. The U.S. Military was well represented with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, who brought the guests to a standing ovation when the American Flag was raised. Throughout the evening honorees and guests were treated to performances by many local New York cultural arts groups with dancing and singing.
Gilbert addressed the audience with a touching speech about his emigration from Canada to the United States, telling the crowd how the Star-Spangled Banner being played before every Rangers’ game showed him how much Americans honored their country. Gilbert said, through his experiences since coming to this country, he has adopted the United States as his own and is happy to call it home.
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said of this year’s honorees, “(the NECO) bestows its Ellis Island Medal of Honor on those individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to creating a better world for all of us”.
Ellis Island, situated a mile from Manhattan, was the landing place for between 17 and 30 million immigrants in its 62 years of operation. The immigration hub closed in 1954 and was declared a national monument by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965. It was open to the public until 1984, before President Ronald Reagan and the Chrysler Corporation raised over $160 million to renovate the island, along with the Statue of Liberty.
In September of 1990 Ellis Island was reopened and remains a large tourist attraction for visitors of New York City.