US President, George Bush, and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, presented the medal to His Holiness in front of an audience of four hundred. Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney were among the guests.
Seven thousand people gathered outside the US Capitol to watch the ceremony on giant screens, while tens of thousands of people in 172 different countries watched the ceremony on a live web cast.
The retreatants at Lerab Ling also watched from the Lerab Ling Temple.
President Bush spoke of others who had received the Gold Medal, including past US presidents, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Elie Wiesel. He said:
Over the years, Congress has conferred the Gold Medal on many great figures in history -- usually at a time when their struggles were over and won.Today Congress has chosen to do something different. It has conferred this honor on a figure whose work continues -- and whose outcome remains uncertain. In so doing,
raises its voice in the call for religious liberty and basic human rights. These values forged our Republic. They sustained us through many trials. And they draw us by conviction and conscience to the people of America and the man we honor today. Tibet
The Gold Medal depicts His Holiness standing in front of three holy mountains—Kawalurig in Kham, Amnye Machen in Amdo, and Chomalungma (Mt. Everest) in Central Tibet.
The back of the Gold Medal quotes His Holiness, and reads:
World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.
In accepting the Gold Medal, His Holiness said,
It is a great honor for me to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. This recognition will bring tremendous joy and encouragement to the Tibetan people, for whom I have a special responsibility. Their welfare is my constant motivation and I always consider myself as their free spokesperson.
I believe that this award also sends a powerful message to those many individuals who are dedicated to promoting peace, understanding and harmony.
Photos courtesy ICT/Sonam Zoksang.