WASHINGTON – He jokes he was a bad monk who was not the best student. But now,nearly 73 years after being proclaimed the 14th Dalai Lama at age 2,this “bad monk” was receiving a world-renowned award.
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Democracy Service Medal by the National Endowment for Democracy at the Library of Congress on Friday for his commitment to advancing the principles of democracy and human dignity.
The Dalai Lama said he learned everything he knows about democracy through experience rather than education. He emphasized how all people are the same since birth. “We all have the same right,” he said. “The right to be happy.”
Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and has developed a democratic system for Tibetans in India.
“By demonstrating moral courage and self-assurance in the face of brute force and abusive insults,he has given hope against hope – not just to his own people – but to oppressed people everywhere,” Carl Gershman said before presenting the award.
Gershman is the president of the National Endowment for Democracy,a private,nonprofit foundation that works to strengthen democratic values around the world through non-governmental means. The medal was created in 1999 to recognize individuals who demonstrate personal commitment toward the advancement of freedom,human rights and democracy. The words “for service in the cause of democracy” are inscribed on the cast bronze medal.
Although some Asian leaders claim democracy is a Western concept that undermines Asian values of order,duty and stability,the Dalai Lama has defended democracy as a universal idea,Gershman said.
The Dalai Lama arrived in Washington Wednesday and met with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
At the awards ceremony,the Dalai Lama thanked everyone for recognizing his “small contribution.”
As he spoke seriously about the plight of his people,the Dalai Lama also spoke light-heartedly,bringing laughter to the packed auditorium more than once.
Actor Richard Gere was in the audience. Gere is an advocate for Tibet and the creator of the Gere Foundation,which acts to preserve Tibetan culture.
The Dalai Lama demonstrates how to practice democracy as a way of life,Gershman said.
“It has been the Dalia Lama's monumental achievement to have transformed exile into a platform from which to defend his people and to teach moral and democratic values to the world,” Gershman said. “An achievement that inspires people of good will everywhere and helps us all look to the future with hope.”