Following is the transcript of the full proceedings of the virtual celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday organised by Office of Tibet, Washington DC on 6 July 2020. Click here to watch the video.
The transcript is filed by the Office of Tibet-DC.
Representative Ngodup Tsering, Office of Tibet-Washington DC:
Honourable Sikyong, honourable Ambassador Brownback, honourable members of the US Congress, honourable members of Canadian Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is my great honour to welcome you all to the virtual celebration of His Holiness Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday. On behalf of Office of Tibet, on behalf of more than 30,000 Tibetans who now live in North America, and on behalf of all friends and well-wishers in North America, I would like to wish His Holiness, a very happy 85th birthday. Dear friends, today is a very special day as we celebrate the life of an extraordinary being who possesses infinite love and compassion for all; who believes that his religion is kindness; who treats every human being as his brothers and sisters and who do nothing but spread the message of peace and harmony in the world. The world recognizes him in many ways, an embodiment of God of compassion, and Nobel laureate, a scientist, a great spiritual master, so on and so forth. And yet he always says that he is a simple Buddhist monk; nothing more, nothing less. And that is the essence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. May your holiness live long and enjoy good health, and continue to bestow us with your blessings and guidance.
Dear friends, without further ado, I would now like to invite Khenpo Samdup to lead the prayer for world peace. Khenpo was born in Tibet and escaped into India in 1997. He is the resident Lama at the Dharma center in Virginia.
Thank you Khenpo la for the prayer and now I would like to call upon our first speaker to give the keynote address. Our speaker is Dr. Lobsang Sangay. Dr Lobsang Sangay was elected to the post of Sikyong, the democratically elected leader of Tibetan people and political successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2011. Dr. Sangay was reelected in 2016 and travels extensively around the world for speaking engagements and political advocacy for Tibet, thus, keeping Tibet not only in the radar but also atop the global political discourse. Dr Sangay has been super busy recently in India with the national television and media making a strong case for Tibet. Thank you.
Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay:
Thank you Representative Ngodup la and the staff of Office of Tibet for organizing the celebration of His Holiness’ 85th birthday. This is my third birthday event. Yesterday I issued an online statement to friends in Taiwan who were celebrating His Holiness’ birthday and this morning we had our official birthday celebration. Now here with the Office of Tibet in Washington DC. Last year also I celebrated thrice: one in Dharamshala and Delhi and then the third one in Italy. So for Tibetans, anything three is very auspicious. When we do prostration, we do it three times; when you go around the temple, we do three times. Third is the auspicious number and so this is a very auspicious gathering. I could see my friend Ambassador Brownback. Good to see you. He was here last year to participate in the 60th anniversary of Tibet Institute of Performing Arts and he had a great meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is good to see him. You might be happy to know that today’s chief of the guest at our official function was Honourable Ambassador Kenneth Juster of US to India. He made very beautiful video footage and his video was the best, I should say. I’m glad to see honourable Member of Parliament, Arif Virani. Whenever I go to Ottawa, he’s always there for us. He sent a message today and His Holiness watched it. I’m sure you received the photo as well. Thank you very much for all your support, and I could hear Congressman Perry, in a voice and I hope he’s online. I want to thank him for his support and moving the resolution in the US Congress. Of course, we welcome any kind of support.
Having said that, I’m sure the definition of Tibet will be as per the definition of Tibetan people as a whole and CTA. The way we define Tibet is Tibet which includes Amdo region and Kham region. Amdo is where His Holiness the Dalai Lama was born and a large number of Tibetans are from Kham region including my parents. Having said that, I’m very, very appreciative of his gesture and the bill he has proposed in the US Congress and I could also see Congressman Ben McAdams. I met him in Utah and it was good to see him in Washington, DC as a Congressman and he will be a flag bearer when it comes to the issue of Tibet.
So with that, I want to say a few things. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama taking over the political leadership. He was bestowed the political authority at the age of 16. So it’s the 70 years that he has been shouldering the responsibility of the Tibetan people and Tibetan cause. He went to China in 1954; he was very young [at the time. He met with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and Chu Teh and really advocated for the cause of Tibetan people in Tibet. He tried to really persuade them not to resort to any kind of violence but unfortunately when the occupation of Tibet did take place, violence ensued and approximately millions of Tibetans died. And in 1956, he came to India met with Pandit Nehru and after a few years later, he had to flee to India and take refuge. Since then, he has been travelling all over the world to advocate the cause of Tibet. He has travelled to the US perhaps the most times, and whenever he visits Washington DC, Tibet always enjoys bipartisan support.
When His Holiness visited Washington DC at the press conference, he had Republican Jesse Helms on the right-hand side and Ted Kennedy on the left-hand side and both of them used to confess that they never were in one room and never agreed on one issue but when it comes to the Tibet debate, both the rights of Jesse Helms the left of Ted Kennedy was for the cause of Tibet. So His Holiness enjoyed that kind of bipartisan support and for which we are very grateful. And then, the US as a government has been politically the most vocal and most supportive of all the governments. I think it’s only the US that has a special coordinator’s office in the State Department and every year the State Department has to report on the situation in Tibet, to the Congress, and US Congress has extended funding to Tibetans in South Asia. And for all these reasons, we are very grateful to the people of America and the Government of America. Then the US Congress also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And at that time, Nancy Pelosi then speaker was with President George W. Bush. Again both Republican and Democrat leader were there at the event. President Bush came and participated and elevated the honour and prestige of the event. So we are very grateful.
This year also marks the 80th anniversary of His Holiness’ enthronement. He was enthroned at age five or six, according to Lunar or the modern calendar. And at the age of six, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and he was essentially picked from a very remote nomadic village in Taktser from a farmer’s village and then spiritually, you can clearly see his message of compassion and peace and kindness spread all over the world and he himself has authored or co-authored 330 plus some books. And then there are millions of readers following him and taking comfort in his wisdom, his message of kindness and human values. He was also awarded the Templeton Peace Prize for advocating religious harmony. You can see in this day and age, there are a lot of tensions which are religious or sectarian oriented. His Holiness has been an early advocate of religious harmony and meeting with different religious leaders all over the world. He has been an advocate of religious freedom which presently the US government Ambassador Brownback is doing a very good job. And I would also like to acknowledge the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s very supporting statement on the release of Panchen Lama and issue of religious freedom in Tibet.
His Holiness for us is the manifestation of the Buddha of compassion. For us, he is a father figure, he’s like a parent to us. He has shouldered the responsibility for all these years that’s why the cause of Tibet is still one of the high profile in the world and has widespread support all over the world. He has worked tirelessly for all these years and that’s why Tibetans in Tibet, even though they are under the repression that they still see a glimmer of hope because of the leadership of His Holiness Dalai Lama. For all these reasons, we have dedicated this year as the year of gratitude to celebrate His Holiness’ legacy. So from July 1st 2020 to June 30th 2021, we will be celebrating ‘Gratitude Year for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’ because we want the world to know his four commitments on promoting human values, religious harmony, Tibet culture and environment and in particular the revival of Nalanda. We want the world to know that he is the Gandhi of the 21st century. He is Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela of the 21st century that, among so many other Nobel Peace laureates who have successfully achieved their goals or their cause, our Nobel laureate His Holiness the Dalai Lama deserves his aspiration to be fulfilled as well. That is that I’m standing I’m sitting in front of the photograph of Potala Palace, and with the Tibetan national flag by my side, that we want His Holiness Dalai Lama to return to Tibet where six million Tibetans are waiting for all these decades despite systematic persecution and despite the denial of human rights, Tibetan people are looking up to His Holiness and looking towards the support of the whole world that one day soon he will return to the Potala Palace and they all get to see him and listen to him to be blessed by him.
That is the aspirations of the Tibetan people and we hope with your participation and support, that the wishes and aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet will be fulfilled very soon. So finally, I want to end by saying, even though the global pandemic has created a major crisis, lockdown and shut down everywhere—and the Coronavirus did originate in Wuhan in China—if the Chinese government was hoping that the Wuhan virus has created this crisis and then that can dilute the voices of the Tibetan people and justice-seeking people then I think they’re wrong. This event proves that; the other campaigns that we had proved that. The Tibetan people and our friends will keep marching forward till basic freedom of Tibetan people are restored till His Holiness the Dalai Lama returns to Tibet. So with that, I want to thank all of you for spending your precious time to show solidarity to the Tibetan people and show your respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Thujeche and Tashi Delek.
Thank you so much for your very insightful and informative remarks about this about how important this day is, President Sangay. Now, I would like to bring the next video message from the Speaker of the House, Honourable Nancy Pelosi. Speaker of the House of Representatives Honourable Nancy Pelosi has been a longtime friend of His Holiness and passionate supporter of Tibet cause. Speaker Pelosi has visited both Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala and Tibet. To quote Speaker Pelosi, “If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s operation in Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world”. Kelsang la, please bring in the video message from Speaker Pelosi.
Honourable Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s video message:
Hello, as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, it is a pleasure to join millions of Tibetans and all peace-loving people to wish Holiness the Dalai Lama a wonderful 85th birthday. The Dalai Lama is a messenger of hope whose spiritual guidance has been central to his lifelong mission to advance harmony among the world’s religious traditions and has been a vital force for securing human rights and human dignity for Tibetans and people around the world. On this special day, I recall our bipartisan delegations to Dharamshala to meet His Holiness where we saw the aspirations of the Tibetan people firsthand, particularly in the faces of the beautiful school children we were honoured to meet. The sacred bonds of friendship between the United States, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people is ironclad and critical to ensuring Tibetans can practice their faith, speak their language and celebrate their culture, free from fear of violence or persecution. On behalf of the United States Congress, we will continue to work together to advance the noble cause of peace. May His Holiness’ birthday bring happiness, joy, and a year filled with peace and security for all Tibetans and for the world. Happy birthday, your holiness.
Thank you, and our next speaker is Ambassador Brownback. Sam Brownback is the Ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. So as the governor of Kansas and also at the Senate and also representatives of US Congress, he was instrumental in hosting successful ministerial from all over the globe. He has been an inspiration for so many people fighting for religious freedom. Ambassador Brownback visited Dharamsala as Sikyong just mentioned last fall and met with His Holiness, Sikyong and the CTA leadership. It is learned that the Ambassador is currently on vacation but we’re very grateful that he joined us today which speaks about his support for Tibet and reference to His Holiness. Ambassador Brownback, please.
Honourable Ambassador Sam Brownback:
Thank you very much. And yes, I’m on family vacation so I’m a little casual dressed, but I didn’t want to miss this recognition and celebration. And thank you for inviting me. Lobsang, thank you for your comments. You really captured the inspiration, Dr. Sangay, of what a lot of us are hoping and looking for and believing in the not too distant future. That the Dalai Lama is going to be able to return to Tibet and celebrate freely his practices his religious belief along with all the Tibetan people. This basic foundational human right, that everybody in the world is entitled to under UN statements, under the Chinese constitution, under the US Constitution, to practice their religious freedom. I hope we all can capture that vision of the Dalai Lama, returning to Tibet to freely practice his faith. I want to wish him a personal Happy Birthday to the Dalai Lama. I’ve met him a number of times, most recently in November at a delightful visit and discussion. There’s been a major issue that’s been coming up frequently lately and that is that under any sort of succession authority in Tibetan Buddhism or in any other religious institution, it’s the religious adherents that have the right to pick the successors, not any government; not the Chinese government, not anybody else. And that was something that I was there to state specifically in Dharamsala and meet with His Holiness about although he assured me he’s going to be around for many more years. And that he will outlast the Communist authority in China. And will be able to continue to bring his message of hope and peace to people all around the world, which is a uniting hope and it is a uniting vision.
I hope anybody that’s listening to this broadcast can look at the current situation that we have in the United States towards China. There’s a great deal of difficulty in that relationship right now. And one of the key things that we’re pushing on is to stand for the religious freedom rights of all the people in China and there’s now huge amounts of persecution. It started, in many respects, towards the Tibetan people and it has moved aggressively into Xinjiang. And the people there that are large percentage are Muslim, not able to practice their faith and a million in concentration camps and being forced away from practising their faith and told they cannot name their children Muhammad or you must eat pork against their own religious beliefs. It extends to the Christian house church members throughout China that are having their churches desecrated, crosses taken down and it extends to the people in Hong Kong, who now have this new security law in place and are very concerned about the persecution. They could step up there. These are acts of a government not complying with its own constitution not complying with UN established human rights. This is a government not acting out of strength but out of weakness. It is my hope that the rest of the world could unite and say ‘No, we will stand for the people of China’s right to practice their faith’ and to be able to have religious freedom whether they have a faith or no faith at all, but this is their right as individual people. And we’re going to push for that. We’re going to push aggressively for that and we invite and ask the rest of the world community to join in in this effort.
Recently, an International Religious Freedom Alliance and its alliance of nations had come together to push for religious freedom. And we held a briefing by two senior lamas from Tibet about the issues of current religious oppression taking place in Tibet. We had 15 countries on that call, listening to the briefing and wanting a fresh insight into what’s taking place in Tibet. And I can say that there is growing interest in being able to protect these rights of the Tibetan people so that they can practice.
So on this 85th birthday of the Dalai Lama, I wish him a happy birthday. I say to the Tibetan people, do not lose hope. I say actually, this is a time to push more in concert with the rest of the world and the other people in the other face of China that are persecuted and say we will not be subdued, we will never be subdued. And it’s time for our freedom to be able to practice now. If China seeks to be a global leader, it has to lead in human rights as well. And amongst those is religious freedom. So thank you for allowing me to join in such an auspicious occasion and I want to second what Dr. Sangay said about Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy both supporting the Dalai Lama; that was an unusual thing to see and it did happen. It does show the bipartisan strength and also history and the support for the Tibetan people in their cause of freedom continues today. Happy birthday. And thanks for allowing me to join you. God bless you all.
Thank you, Ambassador Brownback. We would like to extend apologies to the members of your family for encroaching on your family time. Please enjoy your vacation. Now I would like to invite our next speaker, Carl Gershman. Carl Gershman is the president of National Endowment for Democracy with a mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. Support for human rights in Tibet is an important priority for Carl and NED. Carl has been a staunch supporter for Tibet for a long time. Carl Gershman, please.
NED President Carl Gershman:
Thank you. The celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday offers us an opportunity to reflect upon his growing international relevance at this very, very difficult moment in human history. His Holiness once called himself the unluckiest Dalai Lama for having spent more time as a refugee outside his country than inside Tibet but his greatest achievement in my view has been to translate from his exile into a gift for humanity. At a time when the world is so divided, especially my own country that I know he loves so dearly, he has raised his resonant voice on behalf of what he calls human oneness. He has turned his own suffering into a rich fountainhead overflowing with compassion and human wisdom, he has offered a vision of non-violence to a world wracked by hatred and he has found a way through his own simple goodness and sparkling spirit and also his immense international stature to give joy and hope through his own people who are suffering so terribly.
He has said that he is half Buddhist monk, half scientist, meaning that he has tried to understand the human mind in order to awaken our capacity for social, emotional, and ethical learning by transforming exile and suffering into hope and love. He has demonstrated for the whole world the benefit of this method of learning. The Dalai Lama is the youngest 85-year-old in the world. And I have no doubt whatsoever that he will not only continue to teach and inspire for another 20 years as he has said he will but for a good deal longer than that. May He like Moses live for 120 years. And may He give the world joy and hope even thereafter for many years more. Happy birthday.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you, Carl. Now I would like to request our secretary-treasurer to read out the message from honourable Speaker of Tibetan Parliament in exile.
Secretary Tashi Dhondup:
Tashi Delek. It is my great honour to read out the message from Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile Mr. Pema Jungney.
House Speaker Pema Jungney’s video message:
On behalf of all Tibetans in and outside of Tibet, I offer greetings to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with utmost devotion through body, speech and mind on this very special day. I also offer fervent prayers that His Holiness may live for 100 aeons so as to continue providing us with his clairvoyant guidance and blessing with his great kindness. Thank you.
Secretary Tashi Dhondup:
This is the message. Due to the time constraint, we cannot read the statement of the Kashag and Tibetan Parliament in exile on the 85th birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and I request all to visit CTA official website www.tibet.net for the full statement. Thank you.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Next, I would like to request Kelsang la to bring the video felicitation message by Congressman Jim McGovern. Congressman Jim McGovern, as all of us know, is a staunch supporter of Tibet and he has authored the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act and currently the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which was passed last fall in the House with a supermajority and is in the senate right now. He is a great supporter of Tibet. Kelsang la, please bring in the message of Congressman Jim McGovern.
Honourable Congressman McGovern’s video message:
Hi, I’m United States Congressman Jim McGovern from Massachusetts. I serve as the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Thank you for your invitation to say a few words on the joyous occasion of the 85th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Today, Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet, along with Tibetan supporters all over the world come together to celebrate a man of wisdom and peace. His Holiness is beloved by so many people around the world. He is a source of spiritual inspiration and inner harmony. He’s built bridges between and among different religions and faiths. He has used his position to promote compassion and non-violence not only in Tibet but in many difficult places in the world. The Dalai Lama has made the human rights situation in Tibet an issue of international concern. And it has long passed time for the Chinese government to make progress on a negotiated agreement on Tibet. I am proud that the United States Congress has been a bedrock of support for the Tibetan cause. Over a year ago, the Congress passed legislation that I authored the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, and this year we will pass the Tibet Policy and Support Act to help ensure strong US support for the Tibetan people for many decades to come. On the 85th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I offer my continued appreciation of his life’s work promoting compassion, peace and human rights for all of the people of the world.
Thank you, and Happy birthday.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you. We have Congressman Ted Yoho as a speaker, but there was some online connectivity issue so we’re not able to bring Congressmen to the platform today. Next, I’d like to request Congressman Ben McAdams.
Honourable Congressman Ben McAdams:
Thank you so much for this invitation to speak at this celebration honouring his Holiness the Dalai Lama on his 85th birthday. I have the honour in my previous job as the Mayor of Salt Lake County here in Utah, of welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Utah when he came four years ago. He spoke at the University of Utah after receiving the University Presidential Medal and the University of Utah visor hat. He delighted the audience by wearing both of them. That day, he inspired us to continue to bring compassion to all that we do as a government. And I am fortunate to have encountered friends, many members of Utah’s Tibetan community, and my life and my public servant service have been enriched by those friendships with the Tibetan community that’s here in my state of Utah. So on the occasion of His Holiness’ 85th birthday, I’m reminded of how his example of love and tolerance and his call for greater understanding among all communities shines as a beacon of light in these dark and intolerant times. So though he’s a political refugee himself, he gives me hope for a future where, despite our political differences, we will rise above them; we can embrace our diversity as a strength and that we can show compassion to all. So to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, happy birthday.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you, Congressman Ben. As he’s said, he is also a member of Congressional-Executive Commission of China and Congressman Ben with His Holiness in Dharamshala during his college days and also at Salt Lake City as a Mayor. Thank you so much. Now we have a speaker called Scott Perry. I hope we’ve been able to fix the connectivity issue. Congressman Scott Perry represents Pennsylvania’s 10th congressional district and serves on the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific. Recently Congressman introduced bold bill number 6948 that “would authorize the president to recognize Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China as a separate, independent country, and for other purposes”. Congressman Scott has been a strong supporter of human rights and freedom. We’re happy to have you here. So, Congressman Perry, please.
Honourable Congressman Scott Perry (audio):
Well, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. It’s my honour to celebrate and acknowledge the birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. And as important, the message that the Dalai Lama brings. one of hope, and one of peace and one of inclusion all around the world. And of course, on this day, just like every day, we also pray for, hope for and look to a future where the Dalai Lama can be free to visit his people directly without fear and that his people and Tibet will be acknowledged for the nation that it is. I’ve also urged our administration to establish an ambassadorship, and a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet and to and to recognize the government in exile; it is way beyond time that we acknowledge the struggles and the strife that the Tibetan people have been foisted upon them by China that has had been foisted upon them by China and the Communist Party there and to make sure that these wrongs do not continue and that they are righted. And His Holiness is a symbol to the world that these wrongs must be righted. They cannot endure; they cannot endure forever and we pray for his strength and his resolve, but also for his reserves in the face of such horrific tyranny, not only to himself but to his people. We celebrate right along the rest of the world with his presence here and hope that that it will be meaningful and making substantive and meaningful changes in our lifetimes that we can feel that we can see and that we can ourselves participate and partake in. So with that, again, I’m honoured to be here with everybody wishing His Holiness, the very blessed and the very happiest of birthday celebrations. And to ensure that his will in that regard is accomplished, and substantive changes are at hand. And with that, I yield back. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you, Congressman Perry, for your wonderful speech and now I would like to request MP Arif from Canada. MP Arif Virani represents Parkdale High Park where we have the second-largest Tibetan community in North America. Tibetans in Toronto lovingly call him and also our Sikyong calls him, Jhola Arif la which means in Tibetan brother Arif. He is the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, Canada, which has over 40 members. And Arif is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. MP Arif has helped in securing more than 5 million Canadian dollars for CTA’s education endeavours last year. MP Arif la.
Honourable MP Arif Virani:
Tashi Delek, thank you very much. All the speakers, Ambassador Brownback and the congressional officials Mr. Gershman. It’s an honour to be on this panel with you and to be celebrating his holiness on his birthday. So I’ve learned from some of my constituents, some, some Tibetan, so I will try my hand at a little bit of it. (AV speaks in Tibet, introducing himself). I’m struggling with what to add because so many people have offered up so many important words. Obviously, I want to offer my greetings to Tibetans all across North America and indeed around the world. On the 85th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is also an honorary Canadian citizen, in one of the themes, Sikyong raised he talked about sort of bipartisanship, and we’ve heard a lot about Jesse Helms and Ted Kennedy. I think it’s important for people to understand right around the continent that when it comes to His Holiness, and the Tibetan struggle, it doesn’t have any partisan layer to it. All people, all backgrounds, all political leanings get behind this important cause. I think a tangible example of that is that His Holiness is one of four Canadian honorary citizens and that citizenship was bestowed not by a government of my stripe, but by a government of a different stripe. But I think that shows you that it is an important cause for all Canadians. I have had the occasion of meeting His Holiness only once, not many, many times but I can tell you it is one of the most meaningful exchanges I’ve had with any individual in my entire life. And I don’t think it is an exaggeration when Dr. Sangay says that we are talking about a person whose stature is something like Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela. I think that is absolutely accurate. I was quite intimidated when I met him. I was quite nervous. He immediately put me at ease with his laughter, with his compassion, with his friendliness. He chuckled at my Tibetan. He was quite impressed, I think. But he also struck me by his sage demeanour and his wisdom. I asked him some difficult questions and he gave me some difficult advice. What I can say to you with all clarity and candour, is that two years after meeting him, my commitment remains as firm as ever. Two basic things and it doesn’t come in threes, Dr. Sangay. it comes in fours, I apologize. But it was the commitment to things like the Middle Way Approach AND the autonomy of the Tibetan people, in commitment to the resumption of the Sino Tibetan dialogue, in commitments to the linguistic and the religious rights of Tibetans.
And I’ll pick up on something that Ambassador Brownback said because I think it’s important. I think now I also am optimistic and I think all of us should be optimistic those on the panel and those watching because I think now we have a situation where the Tibetan cause has been a struggle for so many decades and it’s gone on for too long. Agreed. But we have a situation where we have other instances that are very much coming to the forefront. So Ambassador Brownback mentioned the Uighur Muslim detention that is happening in the People’s Republic [of China]. We know very well about what is going on in Hong Kong right now, we’ve known for a long time about Taiwan. But I think the stars are aligning in a way that we have the commonality of cause among so many different allied groups, that we can shine a very strong light on human rights violations in the People’s Republic and it’s incumbent upon all of us to do so.
I just want to add a note about the constituents that I represent. I’m very proud to do so they’ve taught me so much about this issue. But they’ve also taught me so much about the teachings of His Holiness. What I mean by that is that looking after one another; not just the Tibetan Canadians that I represent, but the broader community. That has really come to the fore during COVID-19, where I’ve seen so many of my constituents in the Tibetan Canadian community, go forward and help others who are hurting, help others who are hungry, help others who are isolated during this COVID-19 pandemic. To my mind, that is the true example of the fact that the teachings of His Holiness, which are so safe and wise are manifesting amongst people all around the planet, including in my riding. So I thank them for their service. I thank His Holiness for his teachings that he has provided in terms of doing it virtually and online for helping people deal with the pandemic. Then what I would say is that there are many people celebrating all around the planet. I celebrate with you, but I echo the sentiment of Sikyong la when I say that for the 86th birthday, let’s look forward to the day when His Holiness is celebrating his birthday at Potala Palace in Lhasa. Thujeche and Thank you for having me on this panel.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you so much, Arif la. Now we have the video message from MP Garnett from Canada. Let’s have the video message, please.
Honourable MP Garnett Genuis:
I am Garnett Genuis, Member of Parliament here. I’m making this video to wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a happy 85th birthday. His holiness is a recognized spiritual leader around the world. He is also an honorary Canadian citizen. We celebrate him, we celebrate his message of love and goodwill. When I’ve spoken with His Holiness about issues, especially involving the occupation of Tibet, I’ve been so impressed by his desire for reconciliation and peace and his goodwill, even towards those who are involved in the oppression of Tibet. He desires peace, freedom and reconciliation, not violence or recrimination. So again, happy birthday to His Holiness. And while we celebrate in the rest of the world, while Tibetans throughout the diaspora celebrate, it’s important to reflect on the fact that unfortunately, Tibetans inside Tibet are not able to celebrate today. PRC authorities banned celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s birthday. They even prevent Tibetans from displaying pictures of His Holiness. So while we celebrate today the Dalai Lama and his work around the world, we also reflect on the need for continuing advocacy continuing solidarity with the people inside of Tibet, who continue to face occupation and repression.
Your Holiness, happy birthday and we hope you stay healthy and continue your important work for a very long time.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you, MP Garnett, for joining us online. Now we have a musical tribute to His Holiness by Techung la. He’s a very well known Tibetan artist and has produced a number of musical albums to his credit. He is a former artist of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, a pioneer institute established by His Holiness.
Now we have a short trailer of a documentary called ‘Man of Compassion: Stories of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you. Now I would like to request Khenpo Samdup la to lead the prayer for long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Khenpo Samdup la, as I mentioned earlier, was born in Tibet and escaped into India in 1997. He became an ordained monk at the age of 12 and is the current resident Lama at the Drikung Dharma center in Virginia. He visits other centers as well in US and Canada. Khenpo Samdup la, please.
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you so much, Khenpo la. Before we propose the vote of thanks by the Secretary, I would like to request Kungo Sikyong about he felt about the event. Given that this is the first time we’re doing a major sort of event online and the lack of technical know-how and then our level experience in such, we would like to extend our apologies if things have not been done perfectly or in an efficient way. Kungo, can you please speak a few words?
Thank you, Kungo Ngodup la. Initially, I was planning to stay for the first half an hour then leave because it’s late here. But given the remarkable efforts made by the Office of Tibet and its staff, I think you have done a very good job. I could see many of the Offices of Tibet trying to go online here. Here at CTA, we are also trying to take the CTA from a manual base administration to E-governance, you know, that’s the effort. That’s where we are trying to shift. Given the pandemic, we realize that it’s very important to do everything online, and I think the Office of Tibet in DC did a very good job. I was very impressed with the line of speakers with all the Congressmen and Ambassador Brownback and our very good friend Carl Gershman among others. I was particularly impressed, and I was looking forward to the teaser of ‘Man of Compassion’. I think John Kolkin did a very good job and I was waiting for some other former Presidents to show up in the video, but I think they will be featuring soon and I’m looking forward to it. So really job well done. I want to thank all of you for participating, especially those who are watching from North America. I want to say that the Tibet issue is very much strong. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has tirelessly worked for the cause of Tibet for the last 70 years since he took over the political authority and it is the 80th year since he was enthroned. So we should remember him and his words and his advice and his wisdom which is not just helpful to you as an individual, to the family, to the society, to the nation, and to the whole world. That’s why he is such a great leader. Among all the Dalai Lamas, I would say he is the greatest of all the Dalai Lamas and we are so fortunate to have him during our lifetime. That he is, as I said, Gandhi figure of the 21st century. He’s with us now and he’s advising us and he is giving us guidance, we must follow him. This year is gratitude year and all of you should take this advice to your heart and practice it daily. That’s the best birthday gift we can give to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. With that, I also want to say that Tibet cause is strong because of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Recently in India, I think we had like blanket coverage on the Tibet issue. I’ve appeared in more than 40 national and regional televisions and Tibet issues are very well known in India and support and sympathy for Tibet is growing. And you also saw at the United Nations, 50 human rights experts have raised the issue of Tibet and China. They want to visit China, they want to visit Tibet to investigate the human rights conditions of the Tibetan people. So this is unprecedented that the United Nations and human rights experts from dozen countries are coming together to investigate human rights conditions in Tibet. Recently at the European Union and China summit, they raised, again, the human rights issue of Tibet and China. This is also very rare and also very welcoming because at such a high-level Tibet issue is raised. So with all these things going on, especially Washington, DC, they have passed many resolutions on China and in Tibet. Tibetan Policy and Support Act got overwhelming support in the Congress. Now we must push for the Tibetan Policy and Support Act at the US Senate. If anyone of you are from the constituencies of the senators who are the members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, especially the chairperson from the state of Idaho, we all must call his office and gently request and remind him to please vote on the Tibet Policy Act before the summer recess, which starts on August 1st. So we are short of time. I urge all the Tibetans and friends in North America, call your senators to push the bill so that we can have the Tibetan Policy and Support Act by the end of this year. Otherwise, next year, we have to start all over again which is of a major undertaking. So all of you do call and do support.
So with that, I want to once again to congratulate the team of the Office of Tibet and Representative Ngodup la for a very good job and normally Tibetans tend to be more philosophical than technologically savvy, but this time, we have proven that we are getting there technologically as well. So congratulations for the job well done. So for me also, it’s late-night but it’s worth staying. And I want to also thank our team from our office and Tibet TV who have been working seven days a week nowadays. So they all are staying late to support our Offices of Tibet, around the world. So thank you very much. Thuje Che!
Representative Ngodup Tsering:
Thank you, Kungo Sikyong for the wonderful words of encouragement, it meant a lot to us. And also, I would like to recognize John [John Colkin] and Art [Art Howard] for their help in working on the documentary film. Thank you. We will definitely have a few more distinguished speakers and contributors to the video including President Clinton and President Obama. So stay tuned for that in September and once again thank you. I just want to share important announcements that there will be a collective recitation of special supplication prayer, composed by Geshe Thupten Jinpa la, principal translator to His Holiness, via the Facebook page of the Center for Universal Peace. And now we’re going to the last program of today’s events. I would like to request our Secretary Tashi Dhondup la to propose the vote of thanks.
Secretary Tashi Dhondup:
I’m once again greatly honoured to deliver the vote of thanks for this effort on behalf of the Office of Tibet, Washington, DC. I would like to thank honourable Sikyong for joining us live from India and giving a keynote address despite your busy schedule. I would like to thank Ambassador Samuel Brownback for graciously accepting our invitation and joining us live today on this very joyous occasion and for giving a wonderful speech. I extend my sincere thanks to Congressman Ben McAdams and Congressman Scott Perry, Canadian member of parliament, Arif Virani, all for accepting our invitations and for your inspiring remarks. We will cherish this. I thank Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) for joining us and giving an inspiring speech. I would also like to thank Honorable Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Jim McGovern for sending us video felicitations on this special occasion. We are always grateful to all of you for your unwavering and continued support for Tibet. Thank you, Representative Ngodup Tsering la for the welcome remarks and for being the host. Thank you Khenpo Samdup la for agreeing to lead the prayers for world peace and long-life prayer for His Holiness. I thank Techung for singing the beautiful song. You are an inspiration to many young Tibetan artists. I would like to thank my colleague Kelsang Dolma la and Tibet TV team for taking care of the technology and making this online event a great success. Finally, I thank all our viewers for joining us on this special occasion. Thank you once again.