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Remarks by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso


Location: Washington, DC


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SEN. MCCONNELL: Your Holiness, Mr. President and Mrs. Bush, distinguished congressional colleagues, and friends, as Senator Feinstein pointed out, 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, as you learned earlier, he introduced the bill that got us here. We remember him and we thank Susan for being with us again today.

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 leant the prestige of the office to a public event in his honor. (Applause.)

It's obvious by the reaction of this crowd, Mr. President, that we're proud that you're here. 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. (Applause.)

As you've heard, Congress has expressed this view in 16 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 to Nepal. We've educated some of these refugees at U.S. schools through the Tibet Fulbright Program. And we 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. (Applause.)

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 50 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, we thank you, and you're always welcome here. (Applause.)

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