Kate Frederich is a Special Assistant to Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs. Here Kate writes about the Dalai Lama's recent visit to Washington, DC.
On October 17, the Office the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues led by Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, had the distinct pleasure of attending the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Dalai Lama. Deputy Secretary Negroponte was also in attendance along with many other Administration officials. This historic ceremony was the culmination of a years-long effort that garnered nearly unanimous bi-partisan support from Congress. The award was given to the Dalai Lama in recognition of his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights and religious understanding. In the packed Rotunda of the Capitol, surrounded by President Bush and the entire Congressional leadership, the Dalai Lama received the nation’s highest civilian award. The crowd was a sea of dark suited politicians, punctuated by monks in maroon robes and Tibetans – such as former political prisoner Ngawang Sangdrol – in beautiful traditional dress. The Dalai Lama’s words were emotional as he thanked the American people for bestowing this prestigious award upon him. He said he was deeply touched that this great honor has been given to him, a simple monk, from a remote mountain region. The Dalai Lama commented on the generosity of the American spirit and the warm personal connection he feels to the American people, whose support for Tibet over the years has been so important to his cause. He also stated that he believes that the award sends a powerful message to those many individuals who are dedicated toward promoting peace, understanding and harmony.
In the lead up to the presentation of the medal, President Bush and Congressional leadership called on China to invite the Dalai Lama to visit his homeland. President Bush cited “the stubborn endurance of religious oppression over the past century, and his belief that religious diversity is a “source of strength” has led him to call on Beijing to accept the Dalai Lama. That is why, he said, he continues 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.”
The Dalai Lama has been in exile for nearly 50 years and has been fighting for the rights of the Tibetan people as well as an accommodation of autonomy within the People’s Republic of China. Tens of thousands of Tibetans lined the streets in Dharmasala, India (exiled home of the Dalai Lama) to watch the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony on screens that were set up for the occasion.
On Friday, October 19, the Dalai Lama visited the State Department to meet with Deputy Secretary Negroponte. The Deputy Secretary welcomed the Dalai Lama stating he looked forward to discussing issues of mutual concern. Later, the Dalai Lama spoke with State Department, USAID, and other officials who work on Tibet issues within the U.S. Government. He thanked the group and noted the important contribution that they are making in promoting human rights and religious freedom and environmental and economic concerns, in Tibet. What was supposed to be a brief thank you turned into an exposition on the Dalai Lama’s views about Tibet as an issue that had implications for the Asian region and beyond. Citing the broad influence of Tibetan Buddhism in the history of Asia, he emphasized that the values that Tibetan culture embody can be an important positive force in the world’s most populous, economically vibrant region. He encouraged the staff to continue to play a constructive role in helping the people of Tibet.
For a complete transcript of the President’s remarks go to The White House website.