His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greets the crowd of more than 50,000 at the Smithsonian annual Folklife Festival on the mall in Washington, DC on July 2, 2000.

President Bush will attend a ceremony to bestow the Congressional Gold Medal, the country’s highest civilian honor, on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, October 17 in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, in a ceremony presided over by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. This will be the first time that a sitting US President will appear with the Dalai Lama in a public event. Earlier this month, during discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Sydney, President Bush informed China’s leader, Hu Jintao, that he would be attending the Gold Medal ceremony.

Following the ceremony, there will be a celebration with remarks from the Dalai Lama on the West Lawn of the Capitol which is free and open to the public. It is believed to be the first time in the 200-year history of the honor that the West Lawn will be used for a Congressional Gold Medal celebration.

Thousands of Tibetans and Tibetan friends are expected to gather at the Capitol on October 17 to mark one of the most significant international tributes to the exiled Tibetan leader since the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him nearly 20 years ago. U.S. Congress passed a resolution on September 4 to allow the use of the Capitol grounds by the International Campaign for Tibet after the ceremony.

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama, said: “Honoring His Holiness with the Congressional Gold Medal is a strong endorsement of His Holiness’ tireless commitment to enhancing the principles of non-violence, religious harmony, tolerance, and promoting a sense of universal responsibility.”

The bill to award the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, which was passed by Congress on September 13, 2006, and signed into law by President Bush on September 27, 2006, enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Congressional Gold Medal legislation requires two-thirds of Congress to co-sponsor before the bill will be considered, which is an especially high hurdle.

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who will preside over the Rotunda event, said: “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 United States must continue to be committed to meeting the challenge that Tibet makes to the conscience of the world.”

Past recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include George Washington, Pope John Paul II, and other Nobel Peace Laureates, such as Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel. The ceremony on October 17 can be viewed live on the West Lawn. All press who wish to cover the event must be accredited by Tuesday, October 9. Contact [email protected] or see http://www.dalailamadc.org.

Other events during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington, DC, in the week of October 15 include a gala dinner, ‘America celebrates the Dalai Lama’, hosted by the International Campaign for Tibet on October 18, the creation of a sand mandala by Tibetan monks at the Washington National Cathedral, and an inter-faith Pray for Peace event and concert at the Cathedral on October 16.