The Liberty Medal has been presented to representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in recognition of his efforts to promote compassion and human rights around the world.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was chosen in June to receive the award, which comes with a $100,000 cash prize, but canceled his appearance at the Philadelphia ceremony on Monday evening for health reasons.
At the National Constitution Center ceremony, actor Richard Gere called the Dalai Lama "one of the great ones" who "wants nothing more than our happiness, which is ultimately us understanding the nature of things and how deeply interconnected we all are."
The Dalai Lama said in a video statement that he regretted not being able to attend and considered himself a "simple Buddhist monk, no more, no less." He said he was "deeply touched" by recognition of "my little service to humanity."
"Mainly, I (am) fully committed until my death (to) promotion of human value ... including freedom, liberty," he said.
Center CEO Jeffrey Rosen said in announcing the award that the Tibetan spiritual leader has "emphasized the ideals of freedom, dialogue and tolerance."