October 17, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the historic bestowal of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor of the United States, to the Dalai Lama. The award ceremony was participated by then President George W. Bush, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House and Senate leadership, signifying the broad-based support for the Dalai Lama in the United States. The International Campaign for Tibet had the privilege to be actively involved in this Congressional initiative.
On this anniversary occasion, it is good to recall the reasons, as mentioned in the resolutions (Fourteenth Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal Act: S. 2784 sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein and Craig Thomas, and H.R. 4562 sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tom Lantos, of 2006), the Congress cited that made it conclude that the Dalai Lama is a worthy recipient of the honor.
The resolutions said:
“Congress finds that Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama– (1) is recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure of moral and religious authority;
“ (2) is the unrivaled spiritual and cultural leader of the Tibetan people, and has used his leadership to promote democracy, freedom, and peace for the Tibetan people through a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the People’s Republic of China;
“ (3) has led the effort to preserve the rich cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people and to promote the safeguarding of other endangered cultures throughout the world;
“ (4) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his efforts to promote peace and non-violence throughout the globe, and to find democratic reconciliation for the Tibetan people through his “Middle Way” approach;
“ (5) has significantly advanced the goal of greater understanding, tolerance, harmony, and respect among the different religious faiths of the world through interfaith dialogue and outreach to other religious leaders; and
“ (6) has used his moral authority to promote the concept of universal responsibility as a guiding tenet for how human beings should treat one another and the planet we share.”
Ten years later, the Dalai Lama’s message of universal responsibility, religious harmony and understanding continue to resonate in the United States and rest of the world. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey three years after the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal showed that 56 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of him. This puts him “in the same neighborhood as other major religious figures,” a CNN report titled “Why Americans love the Dalai Lama” quoted its Polling Director Keating Holland as saying then. “Favorable ratings for the pope, at 59 percent, and Billy Graham, at 57 percent, are virtually identical,” Holland says.
The popular support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues unabated to this day worldwide, as he expounds to large audiences the values of secular ethics, interreligious dialogue and tolerance and for he preservation of unique Tibetan identity and environment.