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Comments by Lodi Gyari at a Reception Hosted by ICT for Tibetan Americans and Tibet Supporters Participating in Tibet Lobby Day 2010

March 7, 2010

Posted by Gyaltsen Gyari
ITC Blog
International Campaign for Tibet
March 5, 2010

On Monday, March 1 as part of the 2010 Tibet
Lobby Day activities, ICT and the Capital Area
Tibetan Association hosted a reception for Lobby
Day participants and friends of ICT. Lodi Gyari,
Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Executive Chairman of ICT’s Board of Directors,
made remarks to the gathering, highlights of which are reproduced below.

Tashi Delek.

Let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I want to
talk a little bit about Losar, because I think
there has been quite a bit of discussion this
year on whether or not we should celebrate Losar.

I think it’s very important that we celebrate
Losar. When the Kashag sent a circular out to
Tibetans I do not think the Kashag was asking
that we do not celebrate Losar. The Kashag was
simply saying, in order to reflect the situation
inside Tibet we should not celebrate in an extravagant way.

But otherwise, I do think it is very important
for us to celebrate Losar, an important part of
our heritage. After all, what are we struggling
for? Preservation of the unique and distinctive
character of our people, and Losar reflects that.
Losar gives us the opportunity to tell ourselves
who we are, as well as tell the rest of the world who we are.

I was really quite disappointed: there were less
people calling with greetings on New Year’s Day,
and some people even called and said, “I know we
are not celebrating Losar” – I was disappointed
because of course there’s Losar! Losar is the
heralding of the New Year, and we Tibetans are
always thinking about auspiciousness – themde.
Just from that perspective alone it’s very important for us to celebrate.

We should take our cue from Tibetans inside,
where they celebrated more than ever before. They
knew that His Holiness was here in the United
States on the third day of Losar which is very,
very auspicious. In Lhasa, I was told there were
unprecedented numbers of Tibetans at the Jokhang
and Potala celebrating Losar, but also showing
their determination to the Chinese authorities.

They did not put their finest clothes on; but
simply because Tibetans inside do not dress up
doesn’t mean that we too should not dress up. The
Tibetans inside did not dress up because the
Chinese authorities frequently make propaganda
out of them: when they see Tibetans wearing
colorful costumes they take photographs of them
and tell the world, “Look at how happy the
Tibetans are!” But the Tibetans inside Tibet are
very smart. They’ll celebrate – they’ll go to the
Jokhang, to the Potala, to the monasteries – but
they’ll refuse to wear new clothes, because they
wont let the Chinese authorities gain advantages from their celebrations.

Here in exile where we are free, we need to
celebrate and really showcase our rich culture
and celebrate all of our national festivals and holidays.

And so, I wanted to greet you, Tibetans and Tibet
supporters, on this New Year. It has been an
unusually auspicious New Year for us. The very
first activity of His Holiness was to come here
and meet with President Barack Obama. I thought
that really was a wonderful beginning to the New
Year for us – the year of the Iron Tiger.

We Tibetans are always talking about
auspiciousness, and of course, auspiciousness is
also created by ourselves; so therefore we must
always make sure we create the right
auspiciousness. Your brothers and sisters in
Tibet knew that too, and that’s why under
tremendous threats to their lives, not hundreds
but thousands of them – many of them we heard
lined up for four hours to get into the Jokhang.
I’m sure you must have all heard about people in
Amdo setting off fireworks to celebrate the
meeting. They knew that this is an auspicious year for us.

And then very much related to this, I wanted to
talk a little bit about His Holiness’ historic
visit to Washington, DC to meet with President Barack Obama.

I have to say, I was a little surprised and
slightly disappointed how a section of our people
responded to this, one of the most important
meetings that His Holiness has ever had with a President of the United States.

First of all, the decision not to have a meeting
with President Obama in October was a decision
that we took together with the Obama
administration. This is something that I want to
make very clear. His Holiness himself, during his
recent visit I know made it very clear in his
remarks through the media – and particularly when
he spoke through the Tibetan media because he
especially wanted Tibetans inside Tibet to get
the right message – we took that decision. There
must be no misunderstanding about that.

And looking back at that decision now, this was
again a good example of how wise and far-sighted
His Holiness is. This meeting that His Holiness
just had with the President has become such an
important meeting: had he met with President
Obama in October 2009, then it would have been
seen as the normal expression of U.S. support, as
his meetings with all Presidents over the last
sixteen or seventeen years have been.

It also brought an opportunity for people to
express how strongly they care about Tibet.
President Barack Obama, who clearly cares about
Tibet, who clearly has the highest regard for His
Holiness, was contacted about meeting His
Holiness by thousands and thousands of Americans
– from ordinary Americans to politicians – and he
therefore has an even deeper appreciation now of
how important this issue is for the American people.

With regard to creating our own auspiciousness,
let me make a crucial point: every activity you
do, every statement that you make, you should
always bear in mind, how is it going to be registered in Beijing.

And in that context, I was somewhat disappointed
with the reactions of some people to His
Holiness’ exit from the White House and the
unfortunate image of His Holiness walking past
piles of garbage bags. And I know some of you
didn’t like that photo, but I wanted to clearly
state that the photo was not released by the
White House. Similarly, His Holiness was not
exiting from a “back door,” as some people have
suggested; but rather he was proceeding towards
the White House grounds where an opportunity was
provided for His Holiness to speak to the media.

Therefore, the White House was neither
responsible for releasing this image, nor for him
allegedly leaving his meeting with the President
of the United States by a “back door”. We should
not try to create the impression that it was
deliberate by the White House, because it was
not! This kind of thing only pleases people in Beijing.

And especially, please, always think about our
brothers and sisters inside Tibet. Everything we
do, we must be sure that it gives them further
encouragement. It would be immoral for us to send
a message that would demoralize them! Haven’t
they suffered enough? Don’t they need some good news?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is deeply respected
and revered throughout the world, and the fact
that we have such a leader in His Holiness should make us very proud.

And with Barack Obama, there is a special
chemistry with His Holiness. On almost every
global issue, these two Nobel Peace Laureates
have almost identical approaches. For those of us
who were able to participate, it was a wonderful
meeting. It was as if they had known each other
for their entire lives -- maybe even for many lives!

Similarly, there was also some media reports that
His Holiness was presented with cufflinks by
President Obama as a gift. President Obama and
his staff are intelligent enough to know that His
Holiness doesn’t need cufflinks! The President’s
gift to His Holiness in fact was very, very
special, very unique, very historical, and also
very meaningful. That gift was copies of
correspondence that His Holiness received from
U.S. Presidents prior to 1949: first, the letter
from Roosevelt to His Holiness, then the Kashag’s
letter to Roosevelt, His Holiness’ letter to
President Truman, and President Truman’s letter to His Holiness.

Many of you may have heard that when His Holiness
received the Congressional Gold Medal from the
U.S. Congress, he mentioned a gold watch he
received from Roosevelt, but he was too young at
the time – only six or seven years old – to
understand the importance of the letter from the
President of the United States. And in fact, he
had never really known exactly what that letter
said. And so the gift from President Obama – with
a handwritten note – was all the correspondence
that His Holiness had with Roosevelt and with
Truman. And that is a very powerfully symbolic
gift – it demonstrates that the relationship
between His Holiness and the United States is not
something that happened in the last few years; it goes way back.

We should pay more attention to things that are
important and "auspicious." Why are we not
talking more, and writing more about the
statement issued by the White House after the
meeting between President Obama and His Holiness
– a statement that strongly endorsed His
Holiness’ Middle Way Approach, and acknowledged our core issues on Tibet.

Finally, I wanted to say I’m very pleased that
today there is such a large number of Tibetans,
especially younger people who have come for this
Lobby Day. This is a point I have made before on
several occasions, but please allow me to make it
again here: this is our struggle. We may make
mistakes, but still, if you really care about
Tibet, if you call yourselves supporters of
Tibet, then get behind us and stand like a rock
behind us so that we have something to lean
against, and so we don’t fall back. But we will
not allow anyone to lead us by the nose, not even
friends. And so that’s why I’m very happy that
this time there are more Tibetans, and especially
young Tibetans. This is one indication I think that our struggle will continue.

Unlike other exile movements, ours is a movement
that has a single leadership. I always say with
pride when I go to Beijing that there may be some
Tibetans who do not agree with His Holiness’
Middle Way Approach, but even those people
respect His Holiness as much as I respect him.
This must always be clearly communicated.
Similarly, some of you may not agree with some of
the policies of the Tibetan Government in Exile,
but I don’t think there’s a single Tibetan who says it’s not my government.

And so these two messages must always be very
clear. Unlike other movements where they have
different factions and different leaders, ours is
different because His Holiness is the undisputed
leader. As I clearly tell Tibetans within the
Chinese government in Beijing, there is only one
person who truly represents the Tibetan people,
and that is His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

These things need to be constantly and clearly conveyed.

And so with that, my brief remarks became really
rather long! Again, I’m especially happy to see
so many young Tibetans here for Lobby Day. I’m
not saying I don’t have any regard for people of
our generation, because I think we have given
enough service, and the future is being passed to
the younger generation. Please let me wish you all happy Losar, and thank you.
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