Dalai Lama Visits SMU, Receives Honorary Degree

May 9, 2011  

By Praveen Sathianathan

His Holiness the Dalai Lama told an audience of 2,000 high school and college students Monday afternoon at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium, that they are the ones who can shape the future.

“Young people belong to the 21st century, you can make this century, peaceful and democratic,” the Dalai Lama said.

Wearing a traditional maroon and saffron monk’s robe and at times a red SMU baseball hat with a Mustang on it, the revered head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet, spoke about democracy, responsibility and his optimism for a free Tibet as part of university’s 10th Hart Global Leaders Forum. He also received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from SMU.

“Basically we are the same human being. Different faith, different race, different language, even different culture,” he said. “Everyone has the right to achieve happiness.”

He advised the audience to celebrate their commonalities and unify.

“When we come from mother’s womb, no difference of nationality, no difference of religion, no difference of culture,” he said.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for using non-violent methods in his opposition to Chinese rule in Tibet.

“The world belongs to humanity, not to kings or spiritual leaders,” he said. “Each country belongs to the people of that country.”

He said the U.S. belongs to 300 million people and not to any one political party.

His Holiness then praised the country for being a champion of democracy, freedom and liberty, but later said, “Democracy is not an American possession, it is universal,” citing India and Japan.

Acknowledging Laura Bush, who was seated in the front row, he then talked about George W. Bush’s policies as sometimes giving him “reservations,” but that the former president’s motivations were “excellent.”

He also stressed the importance of education to the students, who represented 45 Dallas schools.

“Education must be broad and holistic,” he said. “Your mind must be calm. Too much emotion and you can’t see the reality.”

He also told the audience that he became the 14th spiritual leader at age 2 by recognizing and reciting scriptures of his predecessor the 13th Dalai Lama. He described the search process and then discussed the optimism he felt toward his country.

He said in the last two years more than 1000 articles were written by the Chinese on Tibet “all supporting our way” and criticizing the government.

The Dalai Lama took over political leadership of Tibet in 1950, after China’s attack on the Himalayan nation, but was forced into exile nine years later.

Since his exile, his Holiness has visited more than 62 countries spreading his message of peace. He is the recipient of 84 awards and honorary degrees and has authored more than 70 books.

In mid-March, the 75-year-old leader said that he will retire as head of state for the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Dallas resident Poonam Shah said the Dalai Lama’s message of peace and compassion is easy to follow, but sometimes lost by people’s daily lives.

“The beauty of what he said is that these things are so simple, they are right there in front of us, but a lot of us are so engrossed in out lives that we don’t realize that it is just that simple as that,” she said. “All we need is to be a friend and develop trust in yourself and others and vice versa and just be nice.”

Jasmin Roman, graduate student in engineering management who attended the forum, said she has the pocket Dalai Lama book at work and reads it when she is having a tough day.

“This has been one of my life dreams. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” she said. “Being in his presence, his holiness and his spirit touches you in a way. I have a final tomorrow and I knew this would re-center me and re-energize me and the good karma would come back in and I feel that now. I’m ready to study for another 12 hours!”

The stop at SMU was part of the Dalai Lama’s five-state U.S. visit. According to his website the next stop on his itinerary is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

The Hart Global Leaders Forum is dedicated to turning younger generations into accountable, ethical beings, is sponsored by gifts from Mitch and Linda Hart.

Linda Hart, an aluma of SMU Dedman School of Law, said the forum may have “reached a pinnacle in global leaders by bringing his Holiness to SMU.”

Previous speakers for the Leaders program have included former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Video By Fernando Valdes

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