Pelosi Floor Speech Celebrating 80th Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama


Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House floor calling for solidarity with the struggle of the Tibetan people in honor of the 80th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  Below is a transcript of the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and commend him for being a champion on human rights throughout the world.  I’m pleased to associate myself with the remarks of Chairman Smith, and thank him for his courageous, long-term dedication to human rights throughout the world, and the recognition that what is happening in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of our country and to the world.  And I thank him for enumerating some of the concerns that we have.  And I know that our distinguished Ranking Member will talk about some of those contained in the resolution.  I thank them both for their leadership.

“Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of that resolution, and in celebration of the 80th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose spiritual wisdom and friendship have been uplifting to many Tibetans, Americans and people throughout the world.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a transcendent figure and presence on the international stage.  As a compassionate religious leader, an astute diplomat and an undaunted believer in the power of nonviolence, the Dalai Lama has earned the respect of people from many nations, many backgrounds, and many faith traditions.

“American presidents and the American people have been inspired by his Holiness, who describes himself as a ‘simple monk, no more, no less.’  Those American presidents began with Franklin Roosevelt, who sent His Holiness the Dalai Lama a watch, when he was a little boy, for his birthday – sent him a watch with the phases of the moon.  How prescient it was of President Roosevelt, because His Holiness would not only be a religious figure, but one who related so positively to science and its mysteries.

“To Tibetan Buddhists, His Holiness is the earthly manifestation of the living Buddha.  To them and the international community, he is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.  To millions of believers and admirers, he is a source of wisdom and compassion.  To young people, His Holiness is a positive example of how to make the world a better place.

“As our colleague mentioned, the Chinese government has refused to meet with him; they’re afraid to meet with him.  They consider him a threat, and that’s so unnecessary.  They accuse him of being for independence, when he has said for decades now that he is for autonomy for Tibet.  The Chinese government has brutally repressed Tibetans’ unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage.  The Chinese government’s oppression of the Tibetan people and the Chinese Communist Party’s vitriolic campaign against the Dalai Lama continues, which again challenges us all to speak out.

“Again, the situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world.  If freedom-loving people do not speak out against oppression in Tibet, then we have lost all moral authority to speak out on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.   If [because] it’s a big country, with whom we have big commercial interests like China, deters us from using our voices in support of human rights, how then can we turn to smaller, less economically significant countries and say: ‘For you, the standard is different.’  So, the Congress must continue to stand with the Tibetan people and stand with His Holiness The Dalai Lama to ensure that Tibetan children are free to learn their language, practice their faith and honor their culture as they live in peace.

“Perhaps one of the most remarkable achievements of His Holiness is his profound and unbreakable connection with the people of Tibet.  He has won the Nobel Peace Prize, as was indicated, a recipient whom we honored with the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.  And at that time, it was an honor for all of us that President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush attended that Gold Medal ceremony.  An eightieth birthday is a significant milestone in any culture, none more so than in Tibet.  This is a moment to celebrate.  And on his birthday, on July 6, Tibetans were still not even allowed to utter the Dalai Lama’s name.  In the Dalai Lama’s homeland, more than 140 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest oppression by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party’s vitriolic campaign against the exiled Tibetan religious leader.

“The people of Tibet persevere.  They persevere in peace, and the nonviolent nature of the Tibetan struggle should serve as an inspiration to a world ridden by conflict and devastating acts of violence.  During his long life, the Dalai Lama has shown that harmony between peoples is based on freedom of expression, and the courage to speak the truth and treat others with mutual respect and dignity.

“I just recall one incident, when I was visiting His Holiness in India, at Dharamsala, and he had lamas come over to visit with our bipartisan Congressional Delegation who were visiting him there.  And after the people got up and talked about all the oppression and campaign against the Tibetans that was happening at that time – when I got up to speak following that, I said that ‘We in Congress must act.  We must act in terms of legislation to support the people of Tibet.’  And I said so in a very forceful way, because it was so sad to hear the stories of what was happening in Tibet.  And I was so strong in my reaction to it.  And His Holiness followed me in the program and he said: ‘I pray that we can rid Nancy of her negative attitudes.’

[Laughter]

“But anyway, there is no better way to honor the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday than by standing with him and the Tibetan people, vowing to keep their cause alive.  As we wish His Holiness a peaceful and joyous birthday, we must rededicate ourselves to the cause of peace in the world and peace in our lives.  With that, Madam Speaker, I yield back to the distinguished Ranking Member.”

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