Benjamin Gilman represented New York’s 20th congressional district for more than 30 years. From 1995 to 2002, he served as Chairman of the House International Relations Committee (now renamed as House Foreign Affairs Committee) and from his position regularly convened policy discussions on Tibet and introduced or helped pass key landmark legislation relating to Tibet, working with his colleagues in the House Charlie Rose, Tom Lantos, John Porter, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Smith, Frank Wolf, and others.
During a Hearing on the Status of Negotiations between China and Tibet in April 2000, one of many such hearings that he convened on Tibet as Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Congressman Gilman explained his interest saying, “The Tibetan cause enjoys the global support that it does because it is a courageous attempt by a Nation and a people who are trying to regain what is rightfully theirs by throwing off the repression of colonization. It is in the interest of international stability to have Tibet once again serve as it had for 2000 years as a buffer zone strategically placed between India and China.”
He also hosted the third World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet in Washington, D.C. in April 1997, participated by members of Parliament from several countries. Congressman Gilman visited Dharamsala in August 1997 and during that visit he met the Dalai Lama and representatives of the Tibetan leadership.
In 2003, following his retirement from Congress, the Dalai Lama bestowed upon Congressman Gilman the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth Award, at a special event in Washington, D.C., for his outstanding contributions to the public understanding of Tibet and the plight of the Tibetan people.
He is survived by his wife of 19 years, Georgia, three children from his first marriage; two stepchildren; and 11 grandchildren.