His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Speaker Boehner and Congresswoman Pelosi listen as His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks to members of the press on Capitol Hill. (OHHDL)

The Dalai Lama held discussions with congressional leaders in the U.S. Capital on July 7 amidst speculation about whether President Obama and Secretary Clinton would meet the Tibetan leader during his 10-day Washington, D.C. visit.

House Speaker John Boehner invited a bipartisan group of members to join the meeting with the Dalai Lama, including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Cupcakes were served in observation of the Dalai Lama’s 76th birthday which had occurred the day before on July 6. The Washington journal Politico reported that: “The Dalai Lama was able to produce a rare moment on the Hill when Democrats and Republicans appeared together, smiling, and agreeing on something.”

At a press availability following the meeting, Speaker Boehner lauded the Dalai Lama’s “work to spread freedom, tolerance and human dignity” and pledged a bipartisan commitment to the Tibetan struggle “no matter how long it takes.”

Boehner said: “It is truly an honor and privilege to welcome the Dalai Lama to the United States Capitol. The bond between the Dalai Lama and the American people has been strong for so long that it¹s no surprise his visits are highly anticipated. And I think rightly so. Wherever he goes, the Dalai Lama makes his tireless dedication to the values that we all cherish. He makes them apparent, and he makes it a bit contagious. His example humbles nations such as ours that work to spread freedom, tolerance, and respect for human dignity. And it sustains those who struggle to secure these universal values for themselves and for their families. Here in the Congress, our commitment to the Tibetan people has always brought the two parties together, and I expect it will continue to do so, no matter how long it takes. So we appreciate the Dalai Lama taking the time to speak with us about how we can help spread our shared values, not just in Tibet and China, but in the Middle East as well. We extend to you, Your Holiness, on behalf of people whom we serve, our solidarity, our support and our hope that you will come back soon.”

Leader Pelosi spoke about the historical relationship between the Dalai Lama and the United States saying, “When he was a very little boy and first became the Dalai Lama, President Franklin Roosevelt sent him a watch. Recognizing his love even as a little boy for science and technology it was a watch that showed the phases of the moon. So it is with great admiration and historic honor that I join the Speaker and our colleagues in a bipartisan way to welcome His Holiness.” (A picture gallery of the meeting can be seen at www.dalailama.com.)

Dalai Lama Washington, DC

Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, who serves concurrently as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, met privately with the Dalai Lama at his hotel upon his arrival in Washington on July 5.

The Chinese government routinely objects to meetings between the Dalai Lama and government officials, and foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei publicly repeated these objections on July 7, warning “We hope that the United States strictly abide by its promises on the Tibet issue andŠcautiously and appropriately deal with relevant issues.” He did not specify what those “promises” might be.

No announcements on Obama and Clinton meetings

The White House has said that it has no announcement to make on a potential meeting with the Dalai Lama, who arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday (July 5) to give a major religious teaching to thousands of Tibetans, Americans, Chinese and people from all over the world for ten days from July 6 (www.kalachakra2011.com).

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said yesterday in response to a question at a press briefing that there had been “no decision” on whether the Secretary of State would meet the Dalai Lama or not during this visit.

Director of Government Relations for the International Campaign for Tibet Todd Stein notes: “Much has happened since the Dalai Lama’s meetings with President Obama and Secretary Clinton in February 2010 ­ the Dalai Lama has devolved his governmental authority to democratically elected leaders of the exile government, the Obama Administration has publicly taken a firmer posture on human rights, and an emerging political elite in Tibet is taking ever greater risks to express their unique Tibetan identity within the Chinese state. There is much for him to discuss with the President and Secretary of State.”