Under this legislation, the United States Congress awards this honor “in recognition of his many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, non-violence, human rights, and religious understanding.” The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the United States.
The Senate passed the legislation, sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein and Craig Thomas, by unanimous consent on May 25, 2006. The House of Representatives then overwhelmingly passed the companion legislation, sponsored by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tom Lantos, on September 13, 2006.
The legislation provides that “the United States Congress finds that Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama:
- is recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure of moral and religious authority;
- is the unrivaled spiritual and cultural leader of the Tibetan people, and has used his leadership to promote democracy, freedom, and peace for the Tibetan people through a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the People’s Republic of China;
- has led the effort to preserve the rich cultural, religious, and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people and to promote the safeguarding of other endangered cultures throughout the world;
- was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his efforts to promote peace and non-violence throughout the globe, and to find democratic reconciliation for the Tibetan people through his ‘Middle Way’ approach;
- has significantly advanced the goal of greater understanding, tolerance, harmony, and respect among the different religious faiths of the world through interfaith dialogue and outreach to other religious leaders; and
- has used his moral authority to promote the concept of universal responsibility as a guiding tenet for how human beings should treat one another and the planet we share.”
Now that President Bush has signed it into law, the legislation directs that, “The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the presentation, on behalf of the Congress, of a gold medal of appropriate design, to Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, in recognition of his many enduring contributions to peace and religious understanding.”
Further, the Secretary of the Treasury will be responsible for producing “a gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions.” The bill also provides that bronze duplicates of the gold medal can be produced and sold to the general public.