obama-congressman-475-350.jpg Edward Brooke, the Republican senator from Massachusetts and the first African-American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote, was honored today, October 28 with a Congressional Gold Medal, according to the Associated Press.

In his acceptance speech, Brooke suggested that today’s Republican and Democratic lawmakers put aside their partisan ways to bring conclusion to the health care debate. He also addressed the wars overseas, restoring the economy and adequate housing for all Americans.

 The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest award given by Congress to honor individuals for their achievements and contributions to society. President Obama was on hand to congratulate Brooke saying, “that was Ed Brooke’s way -to ignore the naysayers, reject the conventional wisdom, and trust that ultimately, people would judge him on his character, his commitment, his record and his ideas.  He ran for office, as he put it, ‘to bring people together who had never been together before.’ And that he did.”

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Brooke grew up in Washington, D.C. and served in the segregated Army during World War II before entering the political arena and winning election to the Senate in 1966 as the first Black senator since Reconstruction. He will also be remembered as the man named last year in Barbara Walter’s autobiography as the man she had an intense affair with which last several years. Brooks, who was married at the time, and Walters both knew that if their relationship became public it would be the end of both of their careers.–WLW