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His Holiness the Dalai Lama Honoured with Int'l Freedom Conductor Award

October 25, 2010

Bhuchung K Tsering
October 21, 2010

Cincinnati, Ohio -- The National Underground
Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati presented
His Holiness the Dalai Lama with its
International Freedom Conductor Award on Wednesday (20 October).

The citation said: "H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama,
whose leadership of the non-violent struggle for
the liberation of Tibet reflects the spirit and
courageous actions of the conductors on the
historic underground railroad." This is a
reference to the "conductors," people who helped
escaping slaves reach freedom in the years before
the Civil War in the United States.

His Holiness was received at the National
Underground Railroad Freedom Center by its
President & Chief Executive Officer, Mr Donald W
Murphy. President Murphy introduced His Holiness
to Ms Gwen Ifill, PBS television newscaster and
author, and other guests. His Holiness was then
given a tour of the exhibition in the Center.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
tells "the story of the struggle for freedom in
the United States through exhibits and programmes
that focus on America's battle to rid itself of
the ugly scourge of slavery and treat all its
citizens with respect and dignity." It also puts
the spotlight on the different forms of ongoing
abuses and exploitations throughout the world.

In the afternoon, His Holiness went to the Duke
Energy Convention Center where a special luncheon
programme was organised to honour him with the
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s
with its International Freedom Conductor Award.

The function was attended by Congresswoman Jean
Schmidt and Congressman Steve Driehaus of the
United States House of Representatives and several guests.

Reverend Damon Lynch, Jr., the Pastor of New
Jerusalem Baptist Church, co-chair of the Board
of Directors of the National Underground Railroad
Freedom Center presented the International
Freedom Conductor Award to His Holiness. Rev.
Lynch Jr., also informed the gathering that the
Award comes with a $25,000 prize, and His
Holiness had donated it back to the Center.

Addressing the people briefly before sitting down
for a dialogue with journalist Gwen Ifill, His
Holiness expressed his deep appreciation for the
award. His Holiness said he specifically
appreciated this award as it came from an
organisation that was totally dedicated to the
wellbeing of others, particularly helpless
people. He said when he received the invitation
from the Center he felt great honour and added
that he was touched after seeing the Center's
exhibition on slavery and human exploitation,
including sexual exploitation, around the world.

He said he always consider himself just one human
being out of the seven billion people on this
planet. He said that each individual’s happiness
depends on the rest of the humanity and so for
one’s own selfish reason, one should co-operate
with others. His Holiness called for genuine
co-operation that is based on trust and
friendship. He said trust cannot be bought
through money, power or force. Only through the
showing of genuine concern for others’ wellbeing
and respecting others’ rights brings about trust.

Talking about his commitment to promote human
values, His Holiness said force, bullying,
cheating, exploitations destroy such basic values.

Thereafter, Ms Ifill posed some questions,
including a few from the audience to His Holiness.

To a question on his definition of freedom, His
Holiness said that freedom means human thinking,
human activities, verbal and physical actions,
which are essentially positive and which do not harm others.

His Holiness was next asked, "You have been in
exile for more than 50 years are you a free man?"
To this, His Holiness said that he felt mentally
free. He said since he came to India, he had the
name of refugee and was stateless, which may seem
bad, but in reality he had a new freedom, both
mental freedom and physical freedom. "So I am a free man," he said.

Asked for his views on China’s reaction to Liu
Xiaobo being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, His
Holiness said for the last few decades he had
always expressed the Chinese people’s right to
seek more openness, more justice and less
corruption, including relating in the Tiananmen
events. He said he always supported them, some
times with moral support and in other cases expressing openly.

Regarding Liu Xiaobo, His Holiness said when Liu
came out with the Charter 08, he was in Poland.
Upon learning of the Charter from the media, His
Holiness said he expressed support immediately.
Therefore, when the Nobel Committee announced the
peace prize for Liu this time, His Holiness said
it was logical for him to be overjoyed and happy.
He said that this award is not just to one
individual, but along with Liu’s name there were
thousands of Chinese intellectuals and ordinary
people who were really carrying on the struggle
for freedom. His Holiness said these are not
necessarily against the Chinese Party authorities
but that they really wanted more openness, more
transparency and freedom. He said these were
normal aspirations. He added that sooner or later
the People’s Republic of China will have to go
along the world trend, i.e. freedom and democracy.

Asked whether such awards to Liu harms the
Tibetan cause because they make the government of
China defensive, His Holiness responded that in
general the Tibetan problem is very much related
to the situation in mainland China. He said
closed society with distorted information and
with heavy censorship poses lots of obstacles for
China itself. Once China experiences more
openness then the Tibetan issue can be easily
resolved. He said we are not anti-Chinese and
added that politically, we are not seeking separation from China.

His Holiness said the 1.3 billion Chinese people
have every right to know the reality adding that
the 1.3 billion Chinese people also have the
ability to judge what is right and what is wrong.

When asked on his views on the separation of
church and state, His Holiness said that he
always had the view that religious institutions
and secular institutions should be separate. His
Holiness then explained the historical
development of the institution of the Dalai Lama.
He said after coming to India, after 1959, within
one year work on democratisation of the Tibetan
society was started. He said since 2001 there has
been elected political leadership and since then
the tradition of the Dalai Lama being both the
spiritual and temporal leadership has ended. His
Holiness talked about his semi-retirement and
said that he was looking forward to complete retirement.

His Holiness also talked about his two
commitments of promoting human values and
promoting religious harmony, to come closer on
the basis of mutual awareness, mutual respect and
mutual admiration. He said in the last few
decades he had made some contribution towards
this. He said as a result some of his Christian
friends call him a good Christian. His Holiness
joked that, however, his close friend Archbishop
Tutu teases him saying he is so nice and
wonderful person, and yet unfortunately not Christian.

His Holiness said he will be committed to these two objectives until his death.

Asked for advice to resolve problems in the
American society, His Holiness said he frankly
did not know and that obviously the answer should
come from the Americans themselves. He, however,
said America is historically a champion of
democracy, freedom, and liberty. He said there is
rule of law and freedom of expression. He said he
was sure that no matter what difficulties
Americans had the potential to work out a
solution. He said it was important to maintain enthusiasm and self confidence.

His Holiness said the United States had a special
responsibility of leading the free world. He said
if such a nation crumble without knowing how to
handle the situation, it will be a discouragement.

His Holiness expressed his appreciation for the
work of the Center and opined that just as there
was a United Nations Charter on human rights
there could be one on slavery. He thought the
Center could also think of expanding its scope of
work in other countries and become international
and making its work more effective. He also
suggested looking into micro financing as a way
to rehabilitate the victims of exploitations that the Center focuses.

Asked about sources of his strength, he said the
trust that the Tibetan people has in him has been
a strong motivating factor. Then, he said that as
a Buddhist being honest and sticking to truth
have also been forces of strength for him.

His Holiness talked about his dislike of
formality and said here that he became fond of
former President George W. Bush saying that they
became close friend because he was very nice as a
human being. His Holiness said that he was not
saying this in terms of policies.

His Holiness suggested that the economic problems
in the United States were something created by
human being and so human beings also have the
ability to overcome them. This is logical, he
said, and so there is no reason to feel disheartened.

Previous recipients of the award include Rosa
Parks, South African Anglican Bishop Desmond
Tutu, Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W.
Bush, civil rights activist Dorothy Height and
the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

Mr Don Murphy, the Center's President. "The Dalai
Lama's tireless efforts on behalf of the people
of Tibet - and his lifelong advocacy or freedom
and peace for all people - are in the finest
traditions of those abolitionists who fought for
the eradication of slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries."

His Holiness then left for the nearby town of
Oxford where he will participate in programmes at
Miami University on 21 October. He will give a
public talk on “Ethics in a Modern World” and also receive an honourary degree.

On account of overwhelming interest and a huge
number of demand for seats to these programmes
and since everyone could not be accommodated,
Miami university has set up remote viewing
locations on large viewing screens at its campus
in Oxford as well as on the Hamilton campus and on the Middletown campus.
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