Speech by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell

U.S. Capitol, October 17, 2007

Your Holiness, Mr. President, distinguished congressional colleagues and friends.

One of the people we have to thank for this event isn't with us. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming was a strong but serene man who admired the Dalai Lama and worked with him closely for a long time as chairman of the Foreign Relations panel that deals with Asia. Along with Senator Feinstein, he introduced the bill that got us here. We remember him and we thank Susan, his wife, for being with us.

I also want to recognize someone who could have stayed home this afternoon but didn't. U.S. Presidents have met privately with the Dalai Lama for years. But it wasn't until today that any of them had lent the prestige of the office to a public event in his honour. Mr.President, good to see you. You join a growing list of world leaders who are stepping forward to say in public what the world has long known the Tibetan people have a right to their heritage, their freedom, and the man we honour today is not only courageous but also right to demand both.

Congress has expressed this view in sixteen resolutions since 2001. We've delivered funds to preserve the Tibetan culture and to help refugees who've escaped through the mountains to India and Nepal. We've educated some of these refugees at U.S. schools through the Tibet Fulbright program. And we've broadcast a message of hope across Tibet through Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

Again and again, we've reached out in solidarity to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people, and the Chinese government needs to know that we will continue to do so. The U.S. Congress stands with Tibet.

Truth is persistent, and in the case of the Dalai Lama, so is the messenger. He's carried the plight of his people to the world for nearly fifty years, never growing tired or frustrated. It's this constancy and hope in the face of violence and intimidation that inspires Tibetan teenagers and grandfathers to risk arrest, or worse, by keeping pictures of him in their homes or by scrawling his name on a schoolhouse wall. In recent weeks he has inspired the suffering people of Burma to similar acts of heroism. And he has inspired Congress to give him the greatest honour in our power to bestow.

Your Holiness, America admires you and we thank you. You are always welcome here. 

 

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