On May 05, 2023, on an initiative taken by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Buddhist Vesak Festival was commemorated in the White House, Washington D.C. for the first time ever. Heads of Diplomatic Missions from countries with significant Buddhist populations participated in the ceremonies conducted under the patronage of the Second Gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff. The event which brought together clergy from the three main traditions – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana – was joined in by diplomatic representation from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The ceremony which had been hosted in partnership with the International Buddhist Association of America, thus included representatives from these countries who expressed the wish that it could, in future, be celebrated in the presence of the President of the United States.
Ambassador Samarasinghe, on behalf of Sri Lanka and her Buddhist population, loaned a Buddha statue to be used during the ceremonies. After the successful conclusion of the event, the Ambassador offered to donate the Buddha statue to the White House so that it would serve as a memento of the occasion and also could be used in future events focused on Buddhism at the White House.
The Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff graciously accepted the donation and sent a note of appreciation to Ambassador Samarasinghe. An image of the note is reproduced below along with the letter to the Second Gentleman from the Ambassador.
Embassy of Sri Lanka
31 July 2023