today was one of those days when it seemed like everything went wrong. turns out i was supposed to practice being zen.
i woke up late. realized halfway to the capitol building that my bike lock was at work. took a different route to work and hit a totally jacked up bit of road that was one inch hire than the other part, which in turn flatted my tire. thankfully cheryl was willing to drive me to the capitol. got there just in time to get into the inaugural Lantos Human Rights Prize and watch the prize bestowed on His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
from left to right: katrina lantos swett; john mccain; nancy pelosi; his holiness the dalai lama; annette lantos. howard berman, chair of the house foreign relations committee is speaking
(you can tell i was late by how far away i am from the action)
there were beautiful video presentations about both tom lantos and his holiness
i loved when nancy pelosi recounted an shared moment with his holiness. she explained that she was in india with a congressional delegation and they were getting "riled up" about the way china was treating tibet. the dalai lama reached over and grabbed her hand and told her that she needed to "approach these conversations with a spirit of reconciliation and not anger".
i really loved that!
getting the prize
i also loved it when the dalai lama tickled sister lantos under the chin
the way you tickle a baby
it was super cute
it was inspiring.
here is some video from his speech
some of my favorite quotes from today . . .
"Huge gap, rich to poor. This is unhappy. You have to think seriously about those less-privileged people. They're also human beings."
The "real greatness of America, is your ancestors' principles . . . When I think of America, I think of the idea -- concept of freedom, liberty, equality. I think these are real human values."
i have to say that when he said that i wondered if america had "jumped the shark". i started thinking about how far we have moved away from the ethos of the founding fathers. they were people (men and women -- see john adam's letters to his wife) who valued education; hearty but respectful debate; freedom and accountability; etc. i really think they would be discussed by the level of discourse and the way we are treating each other. the "health care town halls" were an abysmal demonstration of our degraded society. it was embarrassing then simply because it felt so wrong. but perceiving those events through the eyes of the Dalai Lama, is super embarrassing.
anyway, i think this should probably be more throughout before i write it. listening to the Dalai Lama today, i couldn't help but wonder if he wasn't saying something like . . . don't forget you were once awesome.
Speaker Pelosi mentioned how if we can't stand for human rights in tibet and china then we have no moral authority to stand on anywhere in the world. i wondered after His Holiness spoke if he wasn't suggesting that we are in the process of loosing that moral authority.
tomicah was the concluding speaker.
he followed the dalai lama by making a joke :
"when we finish, I plan to ask His Holiness what wrongs one would need to have committed in a past life in order to end up speaking after him on today’s program."
the truth was he was the perfect closer.
there is something really amazing about watching such a close friend speak after the Dalai Lama and realizing that they are the same caliber of person with gifts of a similar magnitude.
i left the event considering the role of my own spirituality on the world. how important it is to be connected to a cause greater than oneself. to, as tomicah said, "seek a more humane fellowship with humankind". i hope tomicah doesn't mind me quoting him here. but this passage brought tears to my eyes when he spoke it, and it brings tears to my eyes as i read it tonight (he graciously shared a copy of his speech with me)
"The struggle for human rights is a fight with no end in sight. . .This cause cannot move forward without our help, and we must ask ourselves if we are ready to continue walking on the path that these two men have trod. When political prisoners are tortured in North Korea; when women are raped in Congo; when the innocent are locked in shipping containers in the deserts of Eritrea for peacefully practicing their religion; and when Tibetans are denied their liberty, will we give of our time, our talents, and our resources on their behalf? Will we work within our sphere of influence – however lofty or lowly it may be – to advance the frontiers of decency?
The efficacy of the prize presented to His Holiness this morning will be determined by whether we answer that question in the affirmative. It is my hope and conviction that we will meet this challenge. That when we return to our homes, our jobs, and our families, we will remember that this morning was not simply a celebration of the Dalai Lama and Tom Lantos, but an affirmation of principles that should guide us all."
tomicah's aunt katrina said today:
"The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice. These hopeful words should remind us that we cannot simply standby and wait for the arc to bend. We have a duty to use our power and influence to hasten its trajectory."
i feel inspired to be better, fight harder, and focus on improving the rights of women, creating a more equitable world, and ensuring access to health care.
if you really want to, you can watch the whole ceremony here . . . or of course you can skip ahead to the parts you want to see most.