Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi presented the first Lantos Human Rights Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning in the Capitol Visitor Center. Named for the late Congressman and human rights activist Tom Lantos, the Lantos Human Rights Prize is intended to raise awareness about human rights violations and honor the brave individuals who are committed to fighting for human rights throughout the world. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“Thank you, Katrina [Lantos Swett], for bringing us all together today on this very special occasion and for continuing your father's work for justice around the world. Many of us came together a generation ago when Tom Lantos invited us to join His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Capitol of the United States. He invited His Holiness, and it was the first time His Holiness would visit the Capitol. But, as Tom always told us then, it was his invitation, but it was his wife Annette's idea. Tom and Annette shared a passionate commitment to this man of peace and to his work. Thank you, Annette, for continuing to shine a bright light on the dark corners of oppression throughout the world.
“Tom's spirit, of course, lives through your work at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. It also lives in the House of Representatives. We are proud to continue Tom's work through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as an official entity of Congress. It builds upon the work of the Human Rights Caucus that was co-founded by Tom Lantos and John Porter. And it is now ably chaired with great conviction by Frank Wolf and by Jim McGovern. We thank them for their leadership.
“We heard from the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It is clear to see, Your Holiness, that Tibet has a friend in the Chairman's office of the Foreign Affairs Committee with Howard Berman, previously with Tom Lantos, and before that Ben Gilman who is with us today. Thank you, Ben, for your leadership as well. This has been bipartisan from the start.
“That special relationship between the United States and the Dalai Lama is almost as old as His Holiness himself. It goes back to when President Franklin Roosevelt sent the Dalai Lama - who was a little boy at the time - a watch that showed the phases of the moon and the days of the week. It was a wonderful gift of friendship which also anticipated his Holiness' love of science. His Holiness took this watch with him when he left Tibet in 1959. He told us earlier this morning that he had the pocket watch in his equivalent of a pocket when he received the Congressional Gold Medal two years ago. He received the medal from President Bush. From one President to another, bipartisan, between generations, the bonds of friendship between the United States and His Holiness and the Tibetan people are as strong and durable as ever.
“U.S. Presidents, Members of Congress, and the American people continue to be inspired by His Holiness's message of peace, non-violence, human rights, and religious understanding. And we can all learn from him. We had a delegation that visited him in India last year and we were particularly stirred up by his concerns and about what is happening in Tibet. His Holiness reminded us then, particularly me, to rid myself of a negative attitude and to think more of reconciliation, peace, and friendship. We are learning from His Holiness. I am so pleased that President Obama recently appointed a special envoy to Tibet, the Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, who is with us today as well. She just visited His Holiness in India as well and I thank her for being with us.
“It has been said over and over again that His Holiness describes himself as a ‘simple monk, no more, no less.' It is the simplicity that I hear, and to millions of believers and admirers, that simplicity is a source of wisdom and compassion.
“Last week, His Holiness visited the site where Martin Luther King was assassinated and received the International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum. I am so pleased that John Lewis is with us today. John teaches us every day here, Your Holiness, that each one of us contains a spark of divinity and therefore is worthy of respect. We need to remember that about everyone, including ourselves. In the legacy of Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, His Holiness leads the way in employing the power of non-violence to promote the freedom of his people and people around the world.
“For more than 20 years, His Holiness has advocated for Tibetan autonomy within the framework of the People's Republic of China. His Holiness has expressed a desire to visit China and to engage directly with Chinese officials. It is our hope that the Chinese government will welcome this opportunity for a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet. The cause of Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. We must not fail to meet that challenge. In fact, unless we speak out on human rights in China and Tibet, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights anywhere in the world.
“Your Holiness, I now have the great privilege of giving you this special Tom Lantos Prize. On this medal are inscribed the words of Tom Lantos: ‘The rights of one are the rights of all.' On behalf of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, the entire Congress, and millions around the world, I thank you for your work to ensure the rights of all people.
“Now I have the privilege of reading the citation on behalf of Annette, Katrina and the Lantos Foundation. ‘The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice hereby awards its inaugural Lantos Human Rights Prize to the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the religious and political leader of the Tibetan people. With courage, compassion, and humility he has given voice to the aspirations of all humanity for a life of dignity, justice, and respect. As an unflinching advocate of non-violent reconciliation, he has advanced the cause of human rights in every corner of the globe. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the most highly honored peacemakers of our time and is a unique moral voice for our day.”