President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner put aside partisan bickering and stood side-by-side today at the National Statuary Hall as a monument honoring the agricultural corporation Monsanto was unveiled.
At fifteen feet tall, the statue is the largest in the Hall and is made entirely of bronze. The statue depicts a large husk of genetically modified corn and is the first to honor a corporation. 2013 is becoming a year of firsts for the Statuary Hall, which in February revealed a statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks marking the first time an African-American woman was commemorated in the gallery.
The Monsanto statue was unveiled on the same day that Congress sent President Obama a bill creating National Monsanto Day every April 1, which Obama has promised to sign as soon as it reaches his desk. Following the Monsanto Protection Act signed into law last week, these gestures are part of what the White House considers an expansion of civil rights for corporations, finally recognized as people after the 2010 Citizens United decision.
“I’m proud to live in an America where we recognize the fundamental human rights of every person, regardless of the color of their skin, who they love, or their lack of sentience. Monsanto was a pioneer in the corporate personhood movement, and this statue beautifully captures his sacrifice.” President Obama told journalists at a post-unveiling press conference.
Obama also pointed to his administration’s strong record in championing the rights of Monsanto. In Paraguay, the President told reporters, the Administration had acted swiftly to prevent former President Fernando Lugo’s “hate crimes” against the company. This resulted in a pro-Monsanto President, Federico Franco, taking office.
Other Democrats were quick to line up behind President Obama. On her personal Twitter account, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said that National Monsanto Day was a “watershed moment for corporate families” and vowed to introduce legislation protecting corporations serving in the military. In Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of protecting Monsanto rights in Syria, keeping “all options” on the table. He told France 24 that he had received “personal assurances” from the newly-elected leader of the Syrian National Council that personhood for Monsanto was the top priority for the opposition.
Back in Washington, the rare display of bipartisanship between the President and the Speaker did not last long.
“This President refuses to put Ohio State in his March Madness bracket, and I’m tired of him underestimating the great people of our state,” Boehner joked to the room of journalists.
Happy April Fool’s Day!