Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony: transcripts of speeches

President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Speaker Pelosi, and representatives from both sides of the House gave unique tributes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the ceremony on Capitol Hill on October 17 to honor the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal. Transcripts of the speeches are published below.

The video includes the inaugural remarks by Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Kasur Lodi Gyari, as well as Tibetan, Mongolian, and Nepalese cultural performances on the West Front of the Capitol building before the Gold Medal award ceremony, the actual Gold Medal award ceremony from the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Tibetan, Ladakhi, and Nepalese performances on the West Lawn following the award ceremony, the ceremony on the West Lawn with introduction by ICT Chairman Richard Gere and speeches by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, presentation of a Stupa to Speaker Pelosi on behalf of the Tibetan people by Kasur Tashi Wangdi and Chitue Tenzing Chonden, and the conclusion of the West Lawn program.

President Bush, the Dalai Lama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi

US President Bush, the Dalai Lama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the National Anthem at the Rotunda ceremony to award His Holiness the Congressional Gold Medal. (Sonam Zoksang/ICT)

His Holiness addresses the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Byrd, my fellow Laureate Elie Wiesel, Honorable Members of Congress, Brothers and Sisters.

It is a great honor for me to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. This recognition will bring tremendous joy and encouragement to the Tibetan people, for whom I have a special responsibility. Their welfare is my constant motivation and I always consider myself as their free spokesperson. I believe that this award also sends a powerful message to those many individuals who are dedicated to promoting peace, understanding and harmony.

On a personal note, I am deeply touched that this great honor has been given to me, a Buddhist monk born of a simple family from the remote Amdo region of Tibet. As a child I grew up under the loving care of my mother, a truly compassionate woman. And after my arrival in Lhasa at the age of four, all the people around me, my teachers and even the housekeepers, taught me what it means to be kind, honest, and caring. It is in such an environment that I grew up. Later my formal education in Buddhist thought exposed me to concepts such as interdependence and the human potential for infinite compassion. It is these that gave me a profound recognition of the importance of universal responsibility, nonviolence, and inter-religious understanding. Today, it is a conviction in these values that gives me the powerful motivation to promote basic human values. Even in my own struggle for the rights and greater freedom of the Tibetan people, these values continue to guide my commitment to pursuing a nonviolent path.

I have had the honor to be in this hall once before when I visited your country in 1991. Many of the faces that welcomed me then, I can see today, which gives me great joy. Many have retired and some are sadly no longer with us. However, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize their kindness and contribution. Our American friends have stood with us in the most critical of times and under most intense pressure.

Mr. President, thank you for your strong support, and for the warm friendship that Mrs. Bush and you have extended to me personally. I am deeply grateful to you for your sympathy and support for Tibet, and your firm stand on religious freedom and the cause of democracy. Madam Speaker, you have not only extended an unwavering support to me and the just cause of the Tibetan people, you have also worked hard to promote the cause of democracy, freedom and the respect for human rights in other parts of the world. For this, I would like to offer my special thanks.

The consistency of American support for Tibet has not gone unnoticed in China. Where this has caused some tension in the US-China relations, I feel a sense of regret. Today, I wish to share with you all my sincere hope that the future of Tibet and China will move beyond mistrust to a relationship based on mutual respect, trust and recognition of common interests.

Today we watch China as it rapidly moves forward. Economic liberalization has led to wealth, modernization and great power. I believe that today’s economic success of both India and China, the two most populated nations with long history of rich culture, is most deserving. With their new-found status, both of these two countries are poised to play important leading role on the world stage. In order to fulfill this role, I believe it is vital for China to have transparency, rule of law and freedom of information. Much of the world is waiting to see how China’s concepts of “harmonious society” and “peaceful rise” would unfold. Today’s China, being a state of many nationalities, a key factor here would be how it ensures the harmony and unity of its various peoples. For this, the equality and the rights of these nationalities to maintain their distinct identities are crucial.

With respect to my own homeland Tibet, today many people, both from inside and outside, feel deeply concerned about the consequences of the rapid changes taking place. Every year, the Chinese population inside Tibet is increasing at an alarming rate. And, if we are to judge by the example of the population of Lhasa, there is a real danger that the Tibetans will be reduced to an insignificant minority in their own homeland. This rapid increase in population is also posing serious threat to Tibet’s fragile environment. Being the source of many of Asia’s great rivers, any substantial disturbance in Tibet’s ecology will impact the lives of hundreds of millions. Furthermore, being situated between India and China, the peaceful resolution of the Tibet problem also has important implications for lasting peace and friendly relation between these two great neighbors.

On the future of Tibet, let me take this opportunity to restate categorically that I am not seeking independence. I am seeking a meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People’s Republic of China. If the real concern of the Chinese leadership is the unity and stability of PRC, I have fully addressed their concerns. I have chosen to adopt this position because I believe, given the obvious benefits especially in economic development, this would be in the best interest of the Tibetan people. Furthermore, I have no intention of using any agreement on autonomy as a stepping stone for Tibet’s independence.

I have conveyed these thoughts to successive Chinese leaders. In particular, following the renewal of direct contact with the Chinese government in 2002, I have explained these in detail through my envoys. Despite all this, Beijing continues to allege that my “hidden agenda” is separation and restoration of Tibet?s old socio-political system. Such a notion is unfounded and untrue.

Even in my youth, when I was compelled to take on the full responsibility of governance, I began to initiate fundamental changes in Tibet. Unfortunately, these were interrupted because of the political upheavals that took place. Nevertheless, following our arrival in India as refugees, we have democratized our political system and adopted a democratic charter that sets guidelines for our exile administration. Even our political leadership is now directly chosen by the people on a five-year term basis. Moreover, we have been able to preserve and practice most of the important aspects of our culture and spirituality in exile. This is due largely to the kindness of India and its people.

Another major concern of the Chinese government is its lack of legitimacy in Tibet. While I cannot rewrite the past, a mutually agreeable solution could bring legitimacy, and I am certainly prepared to use my position and influence among the Tibetan people to bring consensus on this question. So I would also like to restate here that I have no hidden agenda. My decision not to accept any political office in a future Tibet is final.

The Chinese authorities assert that I harbor hostility towards China and that I actively seek to undermine China’s welfare. This is totally untrue. I have always encouraged world leaders to engage with China; I have supported China’s entry into WTO and the awarding of summer Olympics to Beijing. I chose to do so with the hope that China would become a more open, tolerant and responsible country.

A major obstacle in our ongoing dialogue has been the conflicting perspectives on the current situation inside Tibet. So in order to have a common understanding of the real situation, my envoys in their sixth meeting with their Chinese counterparts suggested that we be given an opportunity to send study groups to look at the actual reality on the ground, in the spiritof “seeking truth from facts.” This could help both sides to move beyond each other’s contentions.

The time has come for our dialogue with the Chinese leadership to progress towards the successful implementation of a meaningful autonomy for Tibet, as guaranteed in the Chinese constitution and detailed in the Chinese State Council “White Paper on Regional Ethnic Autonomy of Tibet.” Let me take this opportunity to once again appeal to the Chinese leadership to recognize the grave problems in Tibet, the genuine grievances and deep resentments of the Tibetan people inside Tibet, and to have the courage and wisdom to address these problems realistically in the spirit of reconciliation. To you, my American friends, I appeal to you to make every effort to seek ways to help convince the Chinese leadership of my sincerity and help make our dialogue process move forward.

Since you have recognized my efforts to promote peace, understanding and nonviolence, I would like to respectfully share a few related thoughts. I believe this is precisely the time that the United States must increase its support to those efforts that help bring greater peace, understanding and harmony between peoples and cultures. As a champion of democracy and freedom, you must continue to ensure the success of those endeavors aimed at safeguarding basic human rights in the world. Another area where we need US leadership is environment. As we all know, today our earth is definitely warming up and many scientists tell us that our own action is to a large part responsible. So each one of us must, in whatever way we can, use our talents and resources to make a difference so that we can pass on to our future generations a planet that is at least safe to live on.

Many of world’s problems are ultimately rooted in inequality and injustice, whether economic, political or social. Ultimately, this is a question of the wellbeing of all of us. Whether it is the suffering of poverty in one part of the world, or whether it is the denial of freedom and basic human rights in another part, we should never perceive these events in total isolation. Eventually their repercussions will be felt everywhere. I would like to appeal to you to take a leadership role in an effective international action in addressing these problems, including the huge economic imbalance. I believe the time has now come to address all these global issues from the perspective of the oneness of humanity, and from a profound understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of our today’s world.

In conclusion, on behalf of six million Tibetan people, I wish to take this opportunity to recognize from the depth of my heart the support extended to us by the American people and their government. Your continued support is critical. I thank you once again for the high honor that you have bestowed on me today. Thank you.

President Bush addresses Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Madam Speaker; and Senator Byrd; Mr. Leader; members of the congressional delegation, particularly Senators Feinstein and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; Senator Thomas — God rest his soul — distinguished guests, particularly our friend, Elie Wiesel; and Your Holiness.

Over the years, Congress has conferred the Gold Medal on many great figures in history — usually at a time when their struggles were over and won. Today Congress has chosen to do something different. It has conferred this honor on a figure whose work continues — and whose outcome remains uncertain. In so doing, America raises its voice in the call for religious liberty and basic human rights. These values forged our Republic. They sustained us through many trials. And they draw us by conviction and conscience to the people of Tibet and the man we honor today.

Nearly two decades have passed since the Dalai Lama was welcomed to the White House for the very first time. Members of both of our political parties and world leaders have seen His Holiness as a man of faith and sincerity and peace. He’s won the respect and affection of the American people — and America has earned his respect and affection, as well.

As a nation, we are humbled to know that a young boy in Tibet — as a young boy in Tibet, His Holiness kept a model of the Statue of Liberty at his bedside. Years later, on his first visit to America, he went to Battery Park in New York City so he could see the real thing up close. On his first trip to Washington, he walked through the Jefferson Memorial — a monument to the man whose words launched a revolution that still inspires men and women across the world. Jefferson counted as one of America’s greatest blessings the freedom of worship. It was, he said,”a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government, and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”

The freedom of belief is a yearning of the human spirit, a blessing offered to the world, and a cherished value of our nation. It’s the very first protection offered in the American Bill of Rights. It inspired many of the leaders that this rotunda honors in portraits and in marble. And it still defines our way of life.

Consider where we gather today. This great symbol of democracy sits quietly near a Catholic parish, a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim community center, a Greek Orthodox cathedral, and a Buddhist temple — each with faithful followers who practice their deeply held beliefs and live side by side in peace. This diversity is not a source of instability — it’s a source of strength. (Applause.) This freedom does not belong to one nation — it belongs to the world.

One of the tragic anomalies of the past century is that in an era that has seen an unprecedented number of nations embrace individual freedom has also witnessed the stubborn endurance of religious repression. Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away. And that is why I will continue to urge the leaders of China to welcome the Dalai Lama to China. They will find this good man to be a man of peace and reconciliation. (Applause.)

Throughout our history, we have stood proudly with those who offer a message of hope and freedom to the world’s downtrodden and oppressed. This is why all of us are drawn to a noble and spiritual leader who lives a world away. Today we honor him as a universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd for the faithful, and the keeper of the flame for his people.

I congratulate His Holiness on this recognition. I’m so honored to be here with you, sir. Laura and I join all Americans in offering the people of Tibet our fervent prayer that they may find days of prosperity and peace.

And now I ask the Speaker and Senator Byrd to join me for the Gold Medal presentation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi addresses Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Members of Congress are afforded many special opportunities. The opportunity to join the President of the United States and Congressional leaders to award His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal is an unsurpassed honor.

I thank the co-sponsors of the legislation for making today possible. With this Gold Medal, we affirm the special relationship between the United States and the Dalai Lama.

It is a relationship that began with a gold watch. As a boy,the Dalai Lama enjoyed science and mechanics. Knowing this, President Franklin Roosevelt gave the very young Dalai Lama a watch showing the phases of the moon and the days of the week.

The Dalai Lama described the gold watch as magnificent and even took it with him when he fled Tibet in 1959. His Holiness still uses the watch today and his teaching about the connection between science and religion is an inspiring part of his message.

American presidents and the American people have been inspired by His Holiness, who describes himself as a simple monk, no more, no less.

To Tibetan Buddhists, he is the earthly manifestation of the living Buddha.To the international community, he is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. To millions of believers and admirers, he is a source of wisdom and compassion. To young people, His Holiness is a positive example of how to make the world a better place.

I will always be grateful to Chairman Tom Lantos for affording many Members of Congress our first meeting with His Holiness in 1987. It was then that His Holiness described a Middle Way Approach that seeks real autonomy for Tibetans within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. This was a historic moment because His Holiness was relinquishing his goal of independence in favor of a compromise solution.

The Dalai Lama has expressed a willingness to visit China to engage directly with high level officials. It is my sincere hope that Beijing will take advantage of this opportunity and extend an invitation to His Holiness for substantive discussions. It is easy for us to gather here today to honor the Dalai Lama, especially when we consider how difficult it is for Tibetans to do so.

To meet with the Dalai Lama, Tibetans flee the repression in their own country, under the threat of torture and imprisonment for even having a picture of His Holiness. They walk for weeks, without adequate food or clothing, across the freezing Himalayan mountain passes. It is the most perilous escape route on earth. After their audience, they make the trip once again, returning to Tibet to rejoin their families.

When the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Nobel Committee affirmed its unstinting support for his work for peace, and for the unarmed masses on the march in many lands for liberty, peace and human dignity. And in doing so, the Nobel Committee honored the Tibetans who march across the Himalayas, and the many others who cannot.

Today, with this Congressional Gold Medal, we honor the Tibetan people again and His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights and religious understanding.

Your Holiness: you bring luster to this award, and a challenge to the conscience of the world.

Congressman Mr Tom Lantos addresses Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Almost a quarter century ago, my wife, Annette, and I were in Nepal where we met the Tibetan community. And it was through their passionate commitment to this incredible man of peace that Annette and I became involved with His Holiness.

And it was Annette who, over two decades ago, first invited him to the Congress. There was no such a meeting as we have here today. A half-dozen of us met in a small committee room, and His Holiness issued his principles of peace, to which he is so passionately committed today.

What accounts for the rise of this humble Buddhist monk from near-obscurity to the global phenomenon that he has become It is not lobbies. It is not economic power. It is not political influence. It is moral authority.

At a moment in world history when nothing is in as short a supply as moral authority, this humble Buddhist monk has an inexhaustible supply. And this accounts for the respect, the admiration, the love that people have for him across the globe.

So let me take this opportunity again to turn to the people in Beijing with good advice. There is nothing that will guarantee the right atmosphere for the Beijing Olympics more certainly and more forcefully than you inviting this man of peace to Beijing for serious discussions and, once and for all, resolving the dispute between you and His Holiness.

He accepts the sovereignty of China. He is not a “splittist.” He merely wants religious and cultural autonomy for his own people, that they so richly deserve.

I want our friends in Beijing to know that while occasionally we look like a divided country, we are all united, the President and Mrs. Bush and the Speaker and all of us across the aisle in making this plea: Let this man of peace visit Beijing.

Senator Mrs Dianne Feinstein addresses Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Mr. President, Madam Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, and honored guests.

I want to begin by recognizing Senator Craig Thomas, who passed away earlier this year.

Senator Thomas was my cosponsor on the Senate resolution which authorized this Congressional Gold Medal and also on the Tibetan Policy Act, which outlined for the first time U.S. policy toward Tibet.

Senator Thomas’ wife, Susan, is present today, along with several members of his family.

Susan, would you please stand and be acknowledged.

Now, a few words about His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This world is filled with conflict and strife. But the Dalai Lama transcends this world and inspires us with hope.

“To know him is to know compassion”.

“To listen to him is to learn wisdom”.

“To be close to him is to feel the presence of something very special”.

This man has been a quiet force for peace and compassion. He moves people to look beyond their narrow, selfish interests and to find the strength to help others.

I have been blessed to call the Dalai Lama a friend for nearly 30 years.

I first met him in Dharamsala through my husband-to-be, Richard Blum, in the fall of 1978. I was awed by his presence and moved to action.

In September 1979, as Mayor of San Francisco, I was the first official to invite and welcome His Holiness to San Francisco to present him with a key to the City. This was his first visit to America.

As I came to know His Holiness, I have tried to be a bridge between His Holiness and the Chinese leadership.

In fact, on three separate occasions since 1991, my husband and I hand-delivered letters from His Holiness to the Chinese leadership: Asking for direct talks, reiterating his Middle Way approach and clearly stating that he does not seek independence for Tibet, but is looking to secure Tibet’s religious and cultural autonomy.

Through our many talks, I know the Dalai Lama is a reasonable man. He is not seeking independence, but meaningful autonomy within the People’s Republic of China.

And I truly believe that if the Chinese leadership were to sit down with the Dalai Lama, they together could work out a solution whereby he would be able to return to his native Tibet, which has long been his hope and dream.

This has sadly been a lost opportunity.

The simple truth is this: I can think of no one who more embodies the spirit of the Congressional Gold Medal than His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

People flock by the thousands to his lectures all over the world.They yearn to hear his voice, to be enveloped by his spirit of compassion.

His teachings resonate across religions, cultures, and ethnic lines. And his message of peace, non-violence and understanding has never been more relevant.

So let me offer my deepest congratulations, and offer my personal thanks to His Holiness for spreading his message of compassion around the world.

Thank you.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell addresses Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

‘Your holiness, America admires you and we thank you. You are always welcome here at the The Rotunda, U.S. Capitol, October 17, 2007.

Your Holiness, Mr. President, distinguished congressional colleagues and friends.

One of the people we have to thank for this event isn’t with us. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming was a strong but serene man who admired the Dalai Lama and worked with him closely for a long time as chairman of the Foreign Relations panel that deals with Asia. Along with Senator Feinstein, he introduced the bill that got us here. We remember him and we thank Susan, his wife, for being with us.

I also want to recognize someone who could have stayed home this afternoon but didn’t U.S. Presidents have met privately with the Dalai Lama for years. But it wasn’t until today that any of them had lent the prestige of the office to a public event in his honor. Mr.President, good to see you. You join a growing list of world leaders who are stepping forward to say in public what the world has long known the Tibetan people have a right to their heritage, their freedom, and the man we honor today is not only courageous but also right to demand both.

Congress has expressed this view in sixteen resolutions since 2001. We’ve delivered funds to preserve the Tibetan culture and to help refugees who’ve escaped through the mountains to India and Nepal. We’ve educated some of these refugees at U.S. schools through the Tibet Fulbright program. And we’ve broadcast a message of hope across Tibet through Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

Again and again, we’ve reached out in solidarity to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, and the Chinese government needs to know that we will continue to do so. The U.S. Congress stands with Tibet.

Truth is persistent, and in the case of the Dalai Lama, so is the messenger. He’s carried the plight of his people to the world for nearly fifty years, never growing tired or frustrated. It’s this constancy and hope in the face of violence and intimidation that inspires Tibetan teenagers and grandfathers to risk arrest, or worse, by keeping pictures of him in their homes or by scrawling his name on a schoolhouse wall. In recent weeks he has inspired the suffering people of Burma to similar acts of heroism. And he has inspired Congress to give him the greatest honor in our power to bestow.

Your holiness, America admires you and we thank you. You are always welcome here.

 

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