In the first public meeting of the two world leaders,* President Obama took a moment in his speech to praise the Dalai Lama:
I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion and to inspire us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings. I’ve been pleased to welcome him to the White House on many occasions, and we are grateful we are able — that he is able to join us at this one.
The event was the yearly National Prayer Breakfast and was held at the Hilton’s International Ballroom in Washington D.C. As with recent years, thousands of dignitaries and representatives of the world’s religions came together. This marks both the first public meeting of President Obama and the Dalai Lama and the first attendance of His Holiness at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) led off the event, reading a prepared statement by H.H. the Pope, and introducing the presence of the Dalai Lama, saying, “All of us will have the extraordinary privilege today to be joined at this breakfast by another inspirational spiritual leader and peacemaker, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We are honored by his Presence.” At the introduction, President Obama and the first lady clapped and then the President gave a short bow before smiling broadly and waving to the Dalai Lama.
China’s government has already voiced concern for the meeting, one op-ed in China’s State-run newspaper suggesting that, “In whatever form and on whatever occasion, should a president of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China’s toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations. This should be clear to all US politicians… Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama’s attempt to split Tibet from China.”
Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet said:
“The attendance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the National Prayer Breakfast is indicative of his significance as a moral and religious leader to both American Government and the American people, as well as religious people worldwide. The words of appreciation publicly expressed for the first time by President Obama confirm the support of the American government to his peaceful advocacy.
At the same time it is sobering to reflect that while the Dalai Lama is welcomed at the highest levels in Washington, DC, in his homeland the Chinese authorities have engaged in an increasingly aggressive campaign against him – characterizing his teachings as incitement to terrorism – and repress religious freedom. China’s bullying tactics against the Nobel Prize Laureate and global icon of peace are not a sign of strength of a rising world power, but an indicator of insecurity, exposing only the lack of moral authority of the Communist Party state.”
– See more at: SaveTibet.org. You can watch the entirety of Present Obama’s speech here:
And you can jump right to the excerpt when the President mentions the Dalai Lama here:
Obama, then a Senator from Illinois, was present when the Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007.