The Dalai Lama spoke about the need for peace in front of thousands on the West Lawn of the Capitol yesterday after accepting Congress’s highest civilian honor.
The leader of Tibetan Buddhism was in Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal – which was presented by President George W. Bush and Congressional leaders Wednesday. The award is in recognition of his peaceful work for religious and cultural liberty on behalf of six million Tibetans.
Speaking in his native Tibetan language, which was translated into English by a fellow monk, he reiterated his spiritual message of non violence and “warm-heartedness.”
“Peace is not the absence of violence,” read an inscription on the medal, one of the Dalai Lama’s quotes. “Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.”
He stressed he was accepting the award on behalf of the principles of compassion and interfaith understanding rather than his personal actions.
“I am nobody special,” the Dalai Lama said.
China publicly decried the award earlier this week. The Dalai Lama did not specifically address China’s dispproval of his award, but said he “strongly appreciated” the support of “the world’s strongest democracy.”
“The issue of six million people becomes the issue of the world through (American) support,” he said, “It sets an example for others who are oppressed.”
The Dalai Lama’s appearance was preceded by native dances and horn songs. Some of the crowd burned incense and danced along.
Film star Richard Gere also spoke passionately about the Tibetan cause, his voice occasionally breaking with emotion.
“(The Dalai Lama) is proof non violence can work as a tool of change,” Gere said.
Wednesday’s event marked the first public appearance of the Dalai Lama with a sitting president. He also met privately with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush Tuesday to discuss human rights violations in Burma.
“I saw him speak during my freshman year too and I like what he had to say about the interplay of different world religions,” said junior Nick Page, who attended the event.
Sophomore Benjamin Allen said he was glad the Dalai Lama came but that the speech was hard to listen to because of the delayed translation process.
Allen said, “I think he will be remembered the same way we remember peaceful leaders like Martin Luther King so it was an honor to see him in person.”