This evening Tibet is saying Thank You to America. But I want to say Thank You to Tibet for four reasons.
- First, I want to thank Tibet for giving us His Holiness to teach and help guide us. He’s a moral lodestar at a troubled time of confusion and democratic pessimism.
- I also want to thank Tibet for giving us Lodi Gyari as a friend and model, a person beloved by many people in Washington, India, and all over the world. Through Lodi, I want to also thank Tibet for connecting us to George Fernandes, Tibet’s best friend in India, who passed away just two weeks ago after a long illness. Like Lodi, George was a person of great moral and political strength who fought many battles on the side of freedom. He epitomized what is best in Indian democracy, which Lodi rightly believed is important for the future of democracy in the world. I learned to appreciate the importance of India’s democracy from Lodi.
- Third, I want to thank Tibet for placing before us an issue – the rights of the Tibetan people – where the distinction between right and wrong, between oppression and freedom, is so clear that the issue can be a unifying cause for the United States and both of our parties at a time when we are very polarized.
- Finally, I want to thank Tibet, His Holiness, and Lodi for leading us to a better understanding of the nature of the regime in China, its values, and its objectives in the world. For a long time many Americans believed that as China grew economically, it would liberalize and become a responsible stakeholder in the international system. Unfortunately that has not happened, and Tibet’s experience tells us why that has been the case. When the communist regime in China invaded, occupied, and annexed Tibet many decades ago, it made clear at that very early moment that it did not respect human or minority rights or international democratic norms. His Holiness’s Middle Way Approach tested China’s willingness in the aftermath of the period of reform following Mao’s death to compromise and to respect the rights of the Tibetan people. When China broke off the negotiations, saying that it wouldn’t speak to the Dalai Lama unless he first acknowledged that Tibet had been part of China since antiquity, which is a terrible lie, it showed the world its true face. We now know that the rights of Tibetans will not be respected unless China changes and becomes a more open and democratic country. And because of that, we also now understand that our own security and interests depend on China showing more respect for democracy and the rule of law. The brave struggle of the Tibetan people has reminded Americans that we can never become complacent and must forever remain vigilant in the defense of freedom. For that we are grateful. Thank you, Tibet.