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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama to receive International Freedom Award

August 9, 2009

ICT Blog
August 6, 2009

On August 6, 2009, the Memphis-based National
Civil Rights Museum announced that it was
awarding the prestigious International Freedom
Award to the Dalai Lama for his "steadfast
commitment to protecting and defending the rights
of the oppressed people of Tibet and elsewhere in
the world." The museum recognizes the Dalai
Lama’s contributions to world peace through
promotion of human values, interfaith harmony and universal responsibility."

The announcement had a quote from the Museum
Board Chairman Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, who said,
"As a living example of Dr. Martin Luther King
and Gandhi’s non-violence in the face of
political oppression and suffering, the Dalai
Lama demonstrates life-long peaceful struggle
against brutality and injustice. As the Tibetan
people mark their 50th year in exile, the Dalai
Lama’s struggle serves as an inspiration for
social justice movements everywhere."

I thought the announcement highlighted two
interesting points. First, it is a strong
endorsement of the Dalai Lama’s effort by an
organization aligned with the American civil
rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum
"chronicles key episodes of the American civil
rights movement and the legacy of this movement
to inspire participation in civil and human
rights efforts globally, through our collections,
exhibitions, and educational programs."

Secondly, the reference to the similarity between
the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King is apt as
the Dalai Lama has clearly indicated his looking
up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a role model.
The Dalai Lama mentions in his memoirs about how
the activities of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. have inspired him in his
non-violent struggle for the Tibetan people.

The American student community, too, sees this
connection between the two individuals. In April
2009, a writer for the University of California
at Berkeley’s newspaper The Daily Californian
made this comparison between the Dalai Lama and
Martin Luther King. "Like Martin Luther King Jr.,
he has been steadfastly devoted to nonviolence,
in the face of much repression. His eloquent
articulation and lifetime commitment to
nonviolence earned him the Nobel Peace Prize."

I remember that in September 1995, the very month
I began formally working at the International
Campaign for Tibet, the Dalai Lama came to the
United States in the course of which he went to
Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King Jr.
Center and to meet with the late Civil Rights
leader’s family, including his widow Coretta
Scott King and son Dexter King. I can’t imagine
the feeling inside the Dalai Lama’s mind as he
stood together with the family of an individual he so admired.

Both the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King had
dreams and visions for their people. King’s
dreams have been partially fulfilled even though
there continues to be challenges. The Dalai Lama
continues to work nonviolently for the
fulfillment of the aspirations of the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to accept the award
in Memphis, TN, during his September-October
visit to the United States when he will also be
visiting Washington, D.C. You can get more
information about his Washington, D.C., visit here.
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