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CNN Live Event/Special

Dalai Lama Speaks at Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony

Aired October 17, 2007 - 14:00   ET


DALAI LAMA: Today, not like my usual sort of way, complete informal way, but today more -- ceremonial, a more formal way, so a bit difficult.

There are more difficulties -- my speech -- of course, prepared in Tibetan. So if I read Tibetan, then since this is a bit long, so I think everybody may feel boring. So now, instead of read Tibetan, I am going to read my English translation.

So, anyway, I start the English learning I think 1947, '48. Now, still my English is very, very poor. Now a person who now over 72 years old, my English level, I think, is like kindergarten.


So, in any way, I determined to read my sort of statement in English as it was something like my English examination in front of dignitaries and scholars.



President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Byrd, my fellow Nobel laureate, of course, elder, my elder Nobel laureate, Elie Wiesel, honorable members of Congress, brothers and sisters, it is a great honor for me to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

This recognition will bring tremendous joy and encouragement to the Tibetan people for whom I have a special responsibility. Their welfare is my constant motivation. And I always consider myself as their free spokesman -- or spokesperson.


The first mistake.


I believe that this award also sends a powerful message to those many individuals who are dedicated to promoting peace, understanding and harmony. On a personal note, I am deeply touched that this great honor has been given to me, a Buddhist monk, born of a simple family from the remote Amdo region of Tibet.

As a child, I grew up under the loving care of my mother, a really wonderful, very compassionate mother, a truly compassionate woman. And after my arrival in Lhasa at the age of 4, all the people around me -- my teachers and even the housekeepers and also the sweepers -- taught me what it means to be kind, honest and caring. It is such an environment I grow up.

Later, my formal education in Buddhist thought exposed me to concepts such as interdependency and the human potential for infinite compassion. It is these that give me a profound recognition of the importance of universal responsibility, nonviolence and interreligious understanding.

Today, it is a conviction in these values that gives me powerful motivation to promote basic human values. Even in my own struggle for the rights and the greater freedom of the Tibetan people, these values continue to guide my commitment to pursuing a nonviolent path.


I have had the honor to be in this hall once before, when I visited your country in 1991. And many of the faces that welcomed me then, I can see today.

Some faces are very familiar to me. So when I meet with these people, I feel something like reunion -- a long time, unchanging friend. Our friendship is not due to money, not power, but your warm heartedness. So I very much...


I can see today, which gives me great joy. Many have retired -- Senator Bell (inaudible) and Jesse Helms. I remember physical difficulties, but the spirit is so strong. Really, wonderful people.

So many of them retired. And now I'm also described as a semi- retired position. So I'm looking forward to complete retirement.


However, I would -- no, no, no. Many have retired and some are sadly no longer with us. Of course, death is our final destination. We have to go that way. Now, as a Buddhist, as a believer, what we can do is only pray -- prayer -- for those people's soul no longer with us.

But I'm quite sure because they are lifelong spirits of freedom and liberty. I think, maybe, as a politician, sometimes maybe a little lie there and there...


But basically these people truly stand certain -- spirit -- truth, justice.

So I'm sure these people, because of their good deeds, their lifetime -- so, certainly, plenty leave our planet these virtues -- certainly have left. (inaudible) my prayer.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the kindness and the contributions -- our American friends have stood with us in the most critical of times and under most intense pressure.

Mr. President, thank you for your strong support and for the warm friendship that Mrs. Bush and you have extended to me personally. Thank you.

I am deeply grateful to you for your sympathy and support for Tibet and your long stand on religious freedom and the course of democracy.


Madam Speaker, you have not only extended an unwavering support to me and just cause of the Tibetan people; you have also worked hard to promote the course of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights in other parts of the world. For this, I would like to offer my special thanks.


The consistency of American support for Tibet has not gone unnoticed in China. Where this has caused some tension in the U.S.- China relations I feel a sense of regret.

Today I wish to share with you all my sincere hope that the future of Tibet and China will move beyond mistrust on a relationship based on mutual respect, trust and recognition of common interests.

Today we watch China as it rapidly moves forward. Economic modernization has led to wealth, modernization and great power.

I believe that today's economic success of both India and China, the two most populous nations, with long history of rich culture, is most deserving. With their newfound status both of these two countries are poised to play important leading role on the world stage.

In order to fulfill this role, I believe it is a vital for China to have transparency, rule of law, and the freedom of information. Much of the world is waiting to see how China's concepts of harmonious society and peaceful rights would unfold.

Today's China, being a state of many nationalities, a key factor here would be how it ensures the harmony and unity of its various peoples. For this, the equality and the rights of these nationalities to maintain their distinct identities are crucial.

With respect to my own homeland Tibet, today many people, both from inside and outside, feel deeply concerned about the consequences of the rapid change taking place. Every year, the Chinese population inside Tibet is increasing at an alarming rate. And if we are to judge by the examples of the population of Lhasa, there is a real danger that the Tibetans will be reduced to an insignificant minority in their own homeland.

This rapid increase in population is also posing serious threat to Tibet's fragile environment. Being the source of many of Asia's great rivers, any substantial disturbance in Tibet's ecology will impact the lives of hundreds of millions.

Furthermore, being situated between India and China, the peaceful resolution of the Tibet problem also has important implications for lasting peace and friendly relations between these two great neighbors.

On the future of Tibet, let me take this opportunity to restate categorically that I am not seeking independence. I am seeking a meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People's Republic of China. If the real concern of the Chinese leadership is the unity and stability of PRC, I have fully addressed their concern.

I have chosen to adopt this position because I believe, given the obvious benefits, especially in economic development, this would be in the best interest for the Tibetan people.

Furthermore, I have no intention of using any agreement on autonomy as a stepping stone for Tibet's independence. I have conveyed these thoughts to successive Chinese leaders, in particular, following the renewal of (inaudible) China's government in 2002.

I have explained these in detail through my envoys. Despite all this, Beijing continues to allege that my hidden agenda is a separation and restoration Tibet's old social political system. Such a notion is unfounded and untrue.

Even in my youth, when I was compelled to take on the full responsibility of the governments, I began to initiate fundamental change in Tibet. Unfortunately, these were interrupted because of the political upheavals that took place.

Nevertheless, following our arrival in India as refugees, we have Democratized our political systems and adopted a Democratic charter that sets guidelines for our exiled administration. Even our political leadership is now directly chosen by the people on a five- year term basis.

Moreover, they have been able to preserve and practice most of the important aspects of our culture and spirituality in exile. This is due to largely to the kindness of Indian government and (inaudible) people.

Another major concern of the Chinese government is its lack of legitimacy in Tibet. While I cannot rewrite the past, (inaudible) could have been (inaudible). And I am certainly prepared to use my position and influence on the Tibetan people to bring consensus on this question. So, I would also like to restate here that I have no hidden agenda. My decision not to accept any political office in the future of Tibet is final. The Chinese authorities assert that I have hostility toward China and that I actively seek to undermine China's welfare.

Sometimes the Chinese accuse us that we are an instrument of Western anti-Chinese forces. I don't think. Here, our supporters are also a good friend of China.

So I always encourage world leaders to engage with China. I have supported China's entry into WTO and awarding the summer Olympics in Beijing.

I choose -- I choose to do so with the hope that China would become a more open, tolerant and responsible country.

A major obstacle in our ongoing dialogue has been the conflicting perspectives on the current situation inside Tibet.

So, in order to have a common understanding of the real situation, my envoys in their (inaudible) with their Chinese counterparts suggested that we be given an opportunity to send study groups to look at the actual reality on the ground.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The Dalai Lama there on Capitol Hill making quite a few points as he talks about hoping that perhaps even through next year's Beijing games, 2008, that this will help present a new platform for a more tolerant new China, especially in its cooperation or improving its relations with the United States, expressing there, even though he's very honored and he says his Tibetan people will be very honored and joyous that he is receiving this congressional gold medal, he also said that it's with much regret that he is helping to promote some tension between the U.S. and China because of his visit to Washington and then later on to other parts of the country including here in Atlanta. We're going to continue to watch what is going on there on Capitol Hill with the Dalai Lama making his visit there receiving the highest civilian award joining others such as Robert Frost and Sir Winston Churchill as well as Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa all recipients of the congressional gold medal.