Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama made the following remarks at NATA's event to honor His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.
"His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to the monks and the people of Tibet, to the leaders and dignitaries and incredible performers who are here today, and to all of you, gathered in this amazing room, good afternoon.
And what an amazing afternoon it is. It is an honor to be among so many friends of His Holiness as we celebrate his extraordinary life of a man that we all admire and respect. I come here today on behalf of President Barack Obama, to convey the birthday wishes of the American people to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There are very few individuals that have a truly global presence, and even fewer who have used that presence to make such a powerful and positive contribution to humanity.
Both through his words and importantly his deeds, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has become an ambassador for peace, for justice, and for nonviolence. He has inspired us all to speak up for the dignity of every human being, and he has been unwavering in his conviction that there is most certainly more that unifies us than could possibly divide us. In this sense, he is a man for this moment: at a time when voices of intolerance seek to sow division along religious and racial and ethnic lines, the Dalai Lama serves as a powerful counterweight, for he is a uniter. His teachings challenge us to promote religious harmony among all faiths and traditions, and the unwavering persistence of his message of compassion serves as a moral compass for all of us during this extraordinarily challenging time in our world's history.
But the Dalai Lama is not a billboard who merely looks good from a distance. I know this from personal experience that I am humbled to say. I had the incredible opportunity of visiting His Holiness in Dharamsala back in 2009. I spent time at his private residence and I visited the community that has thrived under his spiritual leadership in exile for 56 years. The Dalai Lama and I discussed the importance of a lifelong commitment to giving voice to the voiceless, and by the example he has set, he truly gave me a renewed strength to never lose sight of our collective and our individual responsibility to be unwavering forces for good.
I felt the profound connection between he and his many followers; I visited a monastery, I visited a school, I visited an orphanage—all that he had established. I saw the extraordinary efforts that he had undertaken to preserve the Tibetan religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions. And I will never, ever forget the joyful healthy children who I met who were being raised by loving and nurturing adults in an orphanage that is 54 years old. And, in fact, I discovered that many of the adults in the orphanage had been raised in that very same orphanage and were giving back to the children of today. After that amazing trip to Dharamsala, I returned to the United States and I told President Obama that His Holiness had changed my life, and I meant it.
Now, I hasten to add that later His Holiness said to the President that he thought I was exaggerating when I said that, but I was not. He truly changed my life. And each time our paths have crossed since that very first visit to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama has touched my heart, and has been an ongoing source of deep and true inspiration for me as I know he is for all of you.
On a personal note, I just want to say publicly what I hope you know privately, which is: I treasure you, and I am humbled, deeply humbled, to be able to call you my friend.
And so today, as we join here and so many people around the world in celebration of an extraordinary life of this great leader, a good and a decent man, a compassionate and honest man, a spiritual and intellectual man, a man, I hasten to say, with amazing grace.
And so I close the way I began, which is to say to you on behalf of President Barack Obama, I wish you Sir, a continued health, and strength, and vigor, for at least until you reach the age of a hundred and twenty. Thank you very much."