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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Spirit moves Dalai Lama crowd

October 20, 2007

Los Angeles Times
October 19, 2007

Harmony reigns as thousands, including many displaced Tibetans, gather at the Capitol for a glimpse of the spiritual leader.

By Johanna Neuman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer


WASHINGTON, October 17: Three years ago, Tsewang Rinzin wrote the words "Save Tibet" on a public wall in China. Authorities jailed him for three months,
warning him upon his release that if he advocated for Tibet again, he would be killed.

So Rinzin and a friend spent three days walking to India, home to an estimated 120,000 exiled Tibetans, and from there, immigrated to the United States. These
days, the 28-year-old works in a restaurant in Boston -- his mother, father, brother and sister still in Tibet.

Today he traveled again, taking a long bus ride from Boston to New York and another from New York to Washington, all so he could see the Dalai Lama, the
embodiment of hope for a people eager to honor their Buddhist religion in their own country.

"My heart is very, very happy," he said on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, where he and thousands of other displaced Tibetans and their supporters gathered to catch
a glimpse of the 146th recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"He is not only a good spiritual person but a good person," said Sunanda Mukherjee, a visiting tourist from Cincinnati who happened on the ceremony. "He is not
political."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), in introducing the Dalai Lama to the crowd outside after the Capitol Rotunda ceremony, agreed that the exiled
monk had "brought a day of peace and reconciliation to the Capitol of the United States." It was a reference to the unusual comity that prevailed over his visit -- a
rare show of bipartisan unanimity that found Democrats and Republicans rallying around the Tibetan cause.

Most, including the Dalai Lama himself, went out of their way to reassure China that their objective was not a separate nation but limited autonomy within China for
Tibetans to practice their religion and preserve their culture. That sentiment was echoed on the west lawn of the Capitol.

"For me, it feels like now the whole world knows about Tibet," said Tserong Tashe, a 35-year-old wallpaper-hanger who came down from New York for the
occasion.

Tenzin Kalsang, a monk who divides his time between New York and his monastery in India, said the Dalai Lama had proved to the world the benefits of
non-violence and patience.

Kunchok Lodoe, whose family fled Tibet in 1959 when the Chinese took power, explained that "he's like a God to us." The Virginia mom added, "Your eyes fill
with tears, it's like seeing him for the first time."

On a JumboTron screen, the crowd watched the ceremony inside the Rotunda, waving American and Tibetan flags, flashing cameras and cellphones at the television
and applauding everything from the Star Spangled Banner to President Bush.

T-shirts spoke to the peaceful mood of the audience. Some quoted the Dalai Lama's own words: "Peace is not the mere absence of violence" and "Peace is the
manifestation of human compassion."

One man stood listening to the Dalai Lama with his hands clasped in prayer. "This is a great day for me," said Nawang Tsering, 27, a New York hotel worker who
came to the United States in 1997 with his father. "He is a great leader of peace."

At rally's end, actor Richard Gere, long an activist for Tibet, wowed the crowd by shouting, "May we meet again next time in Lhasa. . . within two years!"

But Tsewang Gyaltsen, a 42-year-old from Blaine, Minn., spoke more quietly with a handmade sign that greeted many as they left the Capitol. It said, "Give
Non-Violence A Chance. Free Tibet. Thank You USA."

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