On October 17, 2007, the Tibetan freedom struggle achieved a significant milestone as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the United States' highest civilian honor. This prestigious recognition marked another poignant moment in the Tibetan quest for freedom and justice, following the Dalai Lama's Nobel Peace Prize win in 1989.
The award ceremony, held in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., was attended by distinguished guests, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Robert Byrd, and President George W. Bush. During the event, Ms. Nancy Pelosi fondly reminisced about the special relationship between the United States and His Holiness that began in Tibet.
In his acceptance speech at the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his deep gratitude for the honor and its significance for the Tibetan people. He acknowledged the responsibility he felt towards the Tibetan people and emphasized his role as their spokesperson, adding that the recognition would bring tremendous joy and encouragement to them. The Dalai Lama believed that the award also carried a powerful message to individuals dedicated to promoting peace, understanding, and harmony.
Reflecting on his humble background as a Buddhist monk born in the remote Amdo region of Tibet, His Holiness shared personal anecdotes of his upbringing and early education. He described how the teachings of kindness, honesty, and caring had shaped his character. His formal education in Buddhist thought had introduced him to concepts of interdependence and infinite compassion, which led him to recognize the importance of universal responsibility, non-violence, and inter-religious understanding. These values continued to guide his commitment to promoting basic human values, both in his struggle for the rights of the Tibetan people and on a global scale.
In closing, His Holiness extended his heartfelt recognition to the American people and their government for their continued support and the high honor bestowed upon him. He emphasized the critical importance of ongoing support from the United States in the Tibetan freedom struggle.
Ms. Nancy Pelosi expressed her gratitude to the co-sponsors of the legislation that made the award possible and emphasized the enduring connection between the United States and the Dalai Lama. She recounted a heartwarming anecdote from the Dalai Lama's childhood, when President Franklin Roosevelt gifted him a gold watch, which the spiritual leader still used. Pelosi praised the Dalai Lama's teachings on the connection between science and religion as an integral part of his message.
To the international community, the Dalai Lama is regarded as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, a source of wisdom and compassion, and a positive example for young people looking to make the world a better place. Ms. Pelosi also acknowledged the Nobel Committee's unwavering support for the Dalai Lama's work for peace and human rights, stating that the Congressional Gold Medal served to honor the Tibetan people and their leader once again.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, a recognition that celebrated his enduring contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and religious understanding. Ms. Pelosi concluded her speech by expressing hope that Beijing would extend an invitation to His Holiness for substantive discussions.
In response to the United States' decision to honor His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007, the Chinese government expressed strong opposition and vehement criticism. China viewed this recognition as a political move that interfered in its internal affairs and considered it a violation of its sovereignty.
The Chinese government issued a statement denouncing the award, accusing the Dalai Lama of being a separatist and his intentions as being contrary to China's territorial integrity. Chinese authorities argued that the recognition went against the "One China" policy and challenged the Chinese government's authority over Tibet. This move significantly strained diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
Despite these tensions, the Dalai Lama consistently reiterated his commitment to seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the People's Republic of China, rather than pursuing Tibetan independence. However, this response from China underscored the sensitivity of the Tibetan issue in the context of international relations and the complexity of the dialogue between the Tibetan leadership and the Chinese government.
President George W. Bush also spoke at the ceremony, noting that Congress had chosen to honor a figure whose work continued, with an uncertain outcome. He emphasized America's commitment to religious liberty and basic human rights and lauded the Dalai Lama as a universal symbol of peace and tolerance.
The day's events led to celebrations among jubilant Tibetans, both in Tibet and the Tibetan diaspora, as they witnessed a pivotal moment in the Tibetan freedom struggle, supported by a prestigious award and recognition from the United States.
Edited and collated by Team TRC