Remarks by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
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SPEAKER PELOSI: Members of Congress are afforded many special opportunities. The opportunity to join the President of the United States and Congressional leaders and all of you to award His Holiness the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal is an unsurpassed honor.
I thank the co-sponsors of the legislation for making today possible, and join my colleagues in acknowledging the participation and leadership of Senator Craig Thomas. Thank you, Susan. Thank you for being here. (Applause.)
With this Gold Medal, we affirm the special relationship between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the United States. It is a relationship that began with a gold watch and a little boy. As a boy, the Dalai Lama enjoyed science and mechanics. Knowing this, President Franklin Roosevelt gave this 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. President Roosevelt gave the Dalai Lama a gold watch. Today, President Bush will give him the Congressional Gold Medal. (Applause.)
American presidents and the American people have long been inspired by His Holiness, who describes himself as a simple monk, nothing more, nothing less. To Tibetan Buddhists, he is the earthly manifestation of the living Buddha. To them and to the international community, His Holiness is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. To millions of believers and admirers, he is the source of wisdom and inspiration. 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 and Annette Lantos for affording many of us, although it was a small group, but those of us who were at the first meeting with His Holiness in 1987. It was then that His Holiness described the middle way approach that seeks real autonomy for Tibetans within the framework of the People's Republic of China. This was an historic moment because His Holiness was relinquishing his goal of independence in favor of a compromise solution: autonomy.
The Dalai Lama has expressed a willingness to visit China to engage directly with the highest level officials. I join Mr. Lantos and others who have in their hope that Beijing will take advantage of this opportunity and extend an invitation to His Holiness for substantive discussions. (Applause.)
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, and under the threat of torture and imprisonment for even having a picture of His Holiness, as Senator Mitchell mentioned. 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, many make the trip home again to be reunited with their families.
When the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Nobel Committee affirmed their 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, they honored the Tibetans who march across the Himalayas and the many others who cannot.
Today, with this 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 Congressional award, you bring a challenge to the conscience of the world, and today you bring peace to the Capitol of the United States. Congratulations and thank you. (Applause.)