Pelosi Floor Remarks Welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Congress

Jun 14, 2016
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George, 202-226-7616

Washington D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks yesterday evening on the House floor welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Congress of the United States.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“I thank the gentleman for yielding and for calling this Special Order this evening.  And special it is, indeed, as we welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Washington.  Tomorrow in a bipartisan way, the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, will join in welcoming His Holiness.  He is among one of the [leaders] that we all agree [with] – his greatness and the honor he brings us with his visit. 

“Madam Speaker, I completely associate myself with every word of my colleague's comments, Mr. McGovern’s comments.  He talked about our visit to Lhasa, Tibet, and to China – all of China, other places in China – and we called Mr. McGovern the spiritual leader of our visit.  As a co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives, he truly believes, as His Holiness says, and I heard him say today, we're all God's children.  And that's how we have to treat each other. 

“Listening to our colleagues in the previous Special Order, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus who discussed various issues of justice, social justice, health justice and the rest, they talked about Orlando.  It focuses on how special His Holiness' visit is.  Coming the day after the terrible massacre of many in the LGBT community yesterday is really something that should be a comfort to all of us.  His Holiness' message of peace, of compassion, of respect for every person is a message of hope that was well needed today, tomorrow and the next day.  That's the days His Holiness will be here, but as we go forward as well.  This is a truly great man and, again, when I wakened this morning, [I was] so sad about what happened yesterday, but full of hope about hearing what His Holiness would have to say about our responsibilities to each other. 

“Our colleague mentioned our November CODEL.  It was something that many of us had been hoping to do for years.  I'd been trying for 25 years to get a visa to visit Tibet.  The President of China gave us that opportunity.  We went there to see, to learn, to observe and to make judgments.  But we did not go there to burn bridges; we went there to build bridges.  And that’s what Congressman McGovern said.  We saw some areas where we could work together, came back with some resolve, hopefully to get some other bridge building done. 

“I have seen His Holiness on many occasions, when he first came to the Congress, I was brand new in Congress.  He came under the auspices of Mr. Lantos, for whom the Human Rights Commission is named.  And he brought us together in a group to listen to His Holiness' plan of action and it included respect for the environment and autonomy for Tibet, but not independence.  That was over 25 years ago.  He's been talking about autonomy while sometimes the Chinese government doesn't accept that characterization.  It is why we support, many of us support His Holiness. 

“As I mentioned earlier, he has friends on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, and also down Pennsylvania Avenue.  I remember with great pride when we presented His Holiness with a Congressional Gold Medal – again, great bipartisan support. President Bush came and not only that, bigger honor yet, Mrs. Bush, Mrs. Laura Bush, came as well.  What an honor for His Holiness, what an honor for our country, that our President showed that respect. 

“On that day, when we talked about it, we had so many good things to say about His Holiness.  And one of the things was his unstinting support for peace [which] is a positive example of how to make the world a better place.  Peace in the world, peace in our country, peace in our communities, peace in our families, peace in ourselves.  That inner peace is what he has been preaching.  And on his trip, His Holiness embodies – we can see him as he embodies the wisdom and the courage to maintain what he calls ‘a peaceful mind in a modern world’.  And we look forward always to hear what has to say about that. 

“His Holiness says, in addition to saying we're all God's children, and the respect we need to have for each other, and the compassion that he advocates, that great changes start with individuals.  Is there time for me to tell my own personal story?  So, I'll tell this story, which I think some may find amusing.  His Holiness is a gentle man.  And while he has big challenges and he's the leader and the champion in the advocacy – I wouldn't use the word fight, he doesn't like words like that – but in the advocacy for respecting the culture, the language, the religion of the Tibetan people and the autonomy for them as a people, he does so in a very gentle way.  One time when we visited him – I've met him here in the Capitol for the first time, I saw him in Rio at the time of the Earth Summit in 1992, where he spoke as a religious leader, and also we acknowledged that he was the first winner of the Nobel Prize who had as part of his proclamation and why he won, because of his contribution in protecting the environment.  The first environmental consideration in a Nobel Prize – how beautiful that was.  I've seen him here many times – California, New York, you name it.  And in Dharamsala, where he lives in India.

“So anyway, we were taking a delegation there to visit, a bipartisan, large delegation to visit him there, and we saw some of the people, just right after the crackdown in Tibet.  Just coincidentally – we had our trip planned for a long time, but it happened to occur right after that crackdown, so many people were coming in from Tibet telling us what they saw there.  And it was pretty brutal, the report that they gave us.  And it was so sad.  So later in the day, when we had lunch with hundreds of, a couple hundred Lamas from all over India, that part of India – many of them Tibetan, Buddhist Lamas – and I explained what I had just seen that morning and how transformative it was to see people give firsthand knowledge of humanity and this and that and we had to do something about it.  And we had our Members there – one was going to help with this and one was going to help with that.  You know, all the things we were going to do to help these people.  And then, I said what I always said, ‘If freedom-loving people do not speak out against oppression in Tibet because of our commercial interest with China, then we surrender all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.  Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world and we must respond to that.’  Well, that was the end of my remarks and when I was finished, His Holiness spoke to the Lamas there, and he said to the Lamas, ‘Now let us all pray so that we could rid Nancy of her negative attitudes.’  I thought I was making the fight, but I’m not going to be holier than His Holiness.  The gentle approach is what he thinks is best and respectful, and I take some level of pride in telling our Chinese friends – and they are our friends – ‘He is your friend too,’ in terms of damping down any, shall we say, exuberance when we learn of what we consider to be grave injustices and human rights violations.

“In honor of His Holiness’s 80th birthday last summer, Richard Gere, who has been the champion, the Chairman of the International Committee of Tibet and really been a champion for His Holiness and the Tibetan people – Richard Gere and I wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed.  And in it, we said, ‘There is no better way to honor the Dalai Lama than by standing with him and the Tibetan people, vowing to keep their cause alive.’  And a beautiful culture it is indeed and to hear His Holiness, as I did today, speak in Tibetan, which I didn’t understand except through translation and have him explain that the Tibetan language is a beautiful language and its specifics in terms of explaining Buddhism and matters of faith and philosophy because of its intricacies and it's very – it enhances your appreciation and understanding of Buddhism to hear it in the words of the Tibetan language or even translated from Tibetan, in terms of the intricate language you would need to translate it in English or another language.  And so, this language is important to the faith to Buddhism.  It’s important to the culture, it’s important to the families, it’s important, again, to the education of the children.

“And so, any attempts on the part of the Chinese to dilute the population of Tibetans in Tibet is something that would be just really wrong.  Just plain and simple: wrong.  Again, a challenge to the conscience.

“This morning, His Holiness spoke at the United States Institute of Peace, and he said, ‘Real change comes though action.’  He said, ‘You all ask me for my blessing and people say nice things, but real change comes through action.’  And if I understood it correctly, the translation said that karma is not necessarily just about fate it’s about acting, taking action.  So we all need to take action on what we believe in and again, every opportunity I had – and I thank our conscience of our CODEL and Chair of the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights [Congressman Jim McGovern].

“Every opportunity I get, and this is one of them that I treasure, on the Floor of the House to say what an honor it is to even be in the same room, the same place with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  He is the revered figure throughout the world.  His name is synonymous with everything that is good and that is what we emphasized to our Chinese hosts.

“In terms of His Holiness, it is tomorrow, when he comes to the Capitol, I’ll [come] to the Floor to thank him for his tremendous, inspiring leadership.  ‘Inspiration’ is such an inadequate word when it comes to what he is.  We thank him for sharing the strength of his determination in pursuit of peace.  He was speaking about it today, in terms of something that might take some years.  We may not see it, some of us, you might Mr. McGovern – I might not.  But that – a time when the world was completely at peace.  When he laughs, it something very special.  We hear the joyousness that transcends despair.  In his words, we receive a message of hope and humanity.  When he’s with us – in his presence, we feel inspired to make a difference, to make a difference in ourselves and in our world.

“I talked earlier about President Bush coming to the Gold Medal Ceremony, and I know that President [Obama] will be receiving His Holiness this week.  Presidents have done that over time, which is a source of great pride for us in our country and in the relationship between His Holiness and our presidents.  But it goes a long way back, and I will just close by saying: when His Holiness was a little boy, a very little boy and he became the Dalai Lama, he received a gift from the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  And he loved it because it was a watch and the watch had the phases of the moon.  Actually, my Apple watch has the phases of the sun – so this was 70 years ago, the phases of the moon and how prescient our President was – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – to send this little boy this watch, who would become so interested in science and thinking and the brain and faith what the connection was among all of those factors.  But again, the relationship between an American President and His Holiness the Dalai Lama goes back to when he was a little boy and it persists into his 80s now, something that, again, brings luster to us in our country that we have such a beautiful relationship with such a spiritual figure in the world. 

“So I look forward to welcoming here tomorrow, again as I said to him today, ‘You could not have come at a better time when we are so in mourning about what happened in Orlando to our LGBT loved ones, to their families, to the community in Orlando and we are grateful to the response of our first responders there and our law enforcement officials there.  But again, the spirituality that we need to recover and draw strength to go forward to make sure that we minimize any such actions that hopefully, they never happen again.  How wonderful that His Holiness is here to bring us that comfort. 

“With that, I'm pleased – and with great gratitude to my colleague, Mr. McGovern, for being such a champion of human rights throughout the world – he and Mr. Pitts, our Republican colleague, his counterpart, as Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission do a great service to our Congress and to our country.  They honor our values.  Their respect and dignity for the worth of every person – recognizing that we are all God's children, we all have the spark of divinity in us, and they always are speaking truth to power.  I thank them for their commitment, for their courage and to you, Mr. McGovern, for calling this special order tonight.  I yield back.”

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