His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The US House of Representatives today passed a bill to award the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled leader, the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor. The award is in recognition of the Dalai Lama’s advocacy of religious harmony, non-violence, and human rights throughout the world and for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue through dialogue with the Chinese leadership.

The bill enjoyed broad bipartisan support, with 387 cosponsors drawn from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate, representing more than two-thirds of Congress.

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, said: “As a Tibetan, I am deeply touched by this gesture from the United States Congress. Together with the Honorary Citizenship recently bestowed upon His Holiness by the Canadians, this award is an indication of continued international admiration and appreciation of his contribution towards making ours a more harmonious world.”

For more than two hundred years, the US Congress has expressed its gratitude on behalf of the nation for contributions made by outstanding individuals through the occasional commissioning of gold medals in its name. Past recipients of the Gold Medal include George Washington, Pope John Paul II, and other Nobel Peace Laureates, such as Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel.

The Fourteenth Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal Act was introduced as S.2782 by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Craig Thomas (R-WY) and as H.R.4562 by Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA).

The House of Representatives passed the bill in its Senate version with overwhelming support.

The Dalai Lama arrived in California on September 11 and is departing from New York on September 28. He is not expected to visit Washington, D.C. until October 2007.

Members of Congress had this to say about final passage of the Dalai Lama Gold Medal bill:

Senator Dianne Feinstein (principal Democratic sponsor in the Senate): “The Dalai Lama is a worthy recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. He is one of the world’s greatest religious leaders and has used human compassion, courage and conviction as his tools in carving a path for peace. For half a century, he has struggled to better the lives of the Tibetan people. In doing so, he has been a shining light to all those fighting for freedom around the world.”

Senator Craig Thomas (principal Republican sponsor in the Senate): “The Dalai Lama continues to advocate for peace and compassion in a chaotic world. It is an honor and privilege to recognize a man whose life work aims to do what is most needed – bring people together.”

Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi: “For millions around the world, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a source of spiritual refuge and a connection to inner peace and harmony. He has traveled the world, building bridges between and among the different faiths. He has used his position to promote wisdom, compassion, and non-violence as a solution — not only in Tibet — but to other world conflicts.

“The Dalai Lama has been a unifying voice for global peace, asking for international support for his non-violent efforts to engage the Chinese government in the struggle for Tibetan freedom. By awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama, Congress is sending a crucial signal of support for the ongoing discussions. The United States must continue to be committed to meeting the challenge that Tibet makes to the conscience of the world.”

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (principal Republican sponsor in the House, member of the International Relations Committee): “The 14th Dalai Lama is very deserving of the Congressional Gold Medal. His moral courage and unifying vision is an example for all peace-loving peoples. I am privileged to lead a bipartisan action in the House that honors this man of peace with such a marvelous recognition of his continuing work on behalf of his fellow man.”

Representative Tom Lantos (principal Democratic sponsor in the House, ranking member of the International Relations Committee, founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus): “In his quiet but persistent way, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has devoted his life to asserting the Tibetan people’s rights, lifting their spirits and upholding their dignity. By his humble personal example, through his prolific writings and in his addresses to audiences in every corner of the earth, the Dalai Lama has provided exceptional service to humankind. Such a vast contribution to the betterment of our world deserves special recognition and support. After nearly three decades of friendship with His Holiness, I am deeply honored and proud to have rallied my colleagues to award him the Congressional Gold Medal. We can now look forward to the day when he once again meets with members of Congress — this time to stand before us all to receive this unique and well-earned honor.”

You can find the full Congressional Record of the US House vote as a PDF document here »