His High Holiness, the Dalai Lama will be in Washington, D.C. next week to receive the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.
Advocates close to the exiled Tibetan spiritual and political leader say the award, which will be presented next Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda, is the most significant tribute to the Dalai Lama since he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. President Bush will attend the ceremony, the first time a sitting U.S. president has met in public with the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese officials consider a secessionist agitator for his work to give Tibetans more autonomy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a longtime advocate of the Dalai Lama’s, will host the Rotunda ceremony.
The U.S House and Senate voted last year to give the Dalai Lama the medal, which describes him as “the unrivaled spiritual and cultural leader of the Tibetan people . . . recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure of moral and religious authority.” The bill’s sponsors included Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).
The Rotunda service, which will be held from 1 to 2 p.m., is private. But about 2:30 p.m. on the West Lawn, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak to what is expected to be a crowd of thousands as well as others around the world listening on a webcast. Tibetan-style performances, featuring about 200 singers and dancers, will start on the West Lawn at 11 a.m.
The Dalai Lama’s trip to Washington is part of a month-long U.S. tour. However his speech at the Capitol “will be more secular in nature, said Cate Saunders of the special envoy’s office at the National Campaign for Tibet, which represents him in the United States.”
He will arrive Monday from New York City and will stay until Oct. 19. The event next Wednesday is his only public appearance, Saunders said. He will also be feted Oct. 18 at a celebrity-filled gala hosted by Feinstein and her husband and attended by actor Richard Gere and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, among others.
AFP has more on the Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington, D.C. and in related news, AP reports:
Some 30 Tibetan exiles protesting Chinese religious policies stormed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on Wednesday, with several breaching the front gate and chaining themselves to the flag pole inside, police and witnesses said.
Others repeatedly sprayed “Free Tibet” in red paint on the embassy walls and the main gate before many of the demonstrators were forcibly taken away by Indian police, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.