Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa (Chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet), arrived in Washington, D.C. on July 9, 2002 for three days of meetings with U.S. officials, Members of Congress and others.
On July 9, after a briefing on the International Campaign for Tibet’s work, Samdhong Rinpoche attended a reception hosted by the National Endowment for Democracy, where he met First Lady Laura Bush, several Members of Congress and the President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox, who was on an official visit in the United States.
Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, who is the U.S. Tibet Coordinator, introduced First Lady Bush and referred to the Tibetan issue in her remarks.
The award ceremony was attended by Senators, Congressmen, members of the diplomatic corp as well as democracy and human rights leaders.
On July 10, Samdhong Rinpoche met with Bob Reilly, the director of Voice of America (VOA), and was interviewed by VOA Tibetan, Chinese and English language services.
Later that day he visited Capitol Hill, meeting with Congressman Frank Wolf and congressional staff. Senator Dianne Feinstein hosted a lunch meeting for him in the Senators’ dining room in the Capitol.
That night Lodi Gyari hosted a reception in honor of Samdhong Rinpoche. Indian Ambassador, Lalit Mansingh, and Mongolian Ambassador Jalbuu Choinhor, attneded as well as diplomats from Taiwan, European countries and American officials including Senator Feinstein, Congressman Gilman and Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky.
Addressing the reception, Senator Feinstein said that it will not be possible to find a resolution to the Tibetan problem without the participation of Dalai Lama.
Senator Feinstein said that the Tibetan cause is a just one and stressed the importance of the continuation and perpetuation of Tibetan culture. She said that she has worked to safeguard the Tibetan culture since 1978 when she first came in contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.
In his remarks, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche described two objectives of his North American trip: first, to meet the Tibetan community in this part of the world, a population that has seen a steady increase in recent years, and to get their feedback on the policies and programs of his new government; and second, to meet friends and supporters of Tibet.
He said that actions by the United States Government, particularly legislation by the Congress, were among the greatest sources of encouragement to the Tibetan people. He urged for the continued solidarity and support of the international community.
On Thursday, July 11, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche visited the World Bank to attend a luncheon reception in his honor hosted by Indian Executive Director, B.P. Singh. The World Bank’s U.S. Executive Director and representatives of several European and African countries also attended the reception.
The situation of the Tibetan people, the democratic process that is taking place in the Tibetan diaspora and ways to economically empower the Tibetan people were all topics discussed during the reception.
Samdhong Rinpoche also visited Radio Free Asia (RFA) and gave an interview to the Tibetan service after meeting RFA President Richard Richter and the staff of the Tibetan service.
In the afternoon, he spoke with Undersecretary Dobriansky and Lorne Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, briefing them on the current thinking of the Tibetan leadership as well as on the situation inside Tibet. The U.S. officials discussed efforts they are making to promote dialogue on Tibet and improve the human rights of the Tibetan people.
In the evening Samdhong Rinpoche addressed the Tibetan community in the Washington, D.C. area about the programs and policies of the new government in Dharamsala.
Samdhong Rinpoche left for Minneapolis on the morning of July 12 to address the 3rd conference of heads of Tibetan Associations in North America on July 13 and returned to India on July 14.
Samdhong Rinpoche fled from Tibet to India in 1959. He has taught Buddhist philosophy and served as Director of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies (CIHTS, Varanasi), the premier institute for Buddhist philosophy studies today.
In 1990, he was a member of the Drafting Committee Constitution of the Future Polity of Tibet and Charter for the exiled Tibetans. From 1991 to 1995 His Holiness the Dalai Lama nominated him as a member of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, and he served as its chairman for two terms.
He became the first directly elected Chairman of the Cabinet of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in September 2001.
He is an internationally renowned scholar and philosopher. He has also initiated projects to retranslate several Buddhist scriptures, from Tibetan into Sanskrit, which were lost in their original language.
He is a proponent of the nonviolent tradition and has followed the Gandhian approach in his life and work. He has organized the translation into Tibetan of several of Gandhi’s work, particularly relating to nonviolence.