His Holiness Receives Honorary Degree from Southern Methodist University and Shares his Thoughts on Democracy

His Holiness the Dalai Lama holds his Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree as he stands on stage with R. Gerald Turner, (left) the president Southern Methodist University at the university's 10th Hart Global Leaders Forum in Dallas, Texas,

DALLAS: His Holiness the Dalai Lama was awarded with an honorary degree by the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, for his lifelong leadership in promoting peace, compassion and inter-religious understanding.   

 He was greeted by the university president, Gerald Turner, Provost Paul Ludden, and other officials. 

 His Holiness addressed around 200 students from 45 schools in Dallas who are participants of the Hart Global Leaders Forum. He told them that it was important to realize that at the fundamental level we were all the same human beings and that everything else was secondary. 

 Welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mrs. Linda W. Hart and her husband, who established the Hart Global Leadership Forum, said their quest to search for influential speakers may have reached its pinnacle. Every year the forum invites speakers who would make an impact on the students. 

 Mr Gerald Turner, the president of South Methodist University, called His Holiness as an inspiration for millions and the first Nobel laureate recognised for his concern for global environmental problems. He highlighted His Holiness’ message of peace and compassion and three commitments on promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony, and finding a solution to the Tibet problem. 

 His Holiness thanked the University for the honour which he said is a great encouragement for an individual passing through a difficult period with heavy responsibility. He also acknowledged the presence of Mrs Laura Bush in the audience. 

 His Holiness mentioned the initiative reforms that he took in setting up of a reform committee, which he said could not function due to invasion of Tibet by the Communist China. But taking the opportunity of freedom in exile, he implemented reforms, including instituting a system of elected political leadership. 

 Speaking on the electoral reforms undertaken in the Tibetan community, His Holiness said that his decision to devolve authority to the elected Tibetan leadership is his total dedication to democracy. He lauded the United States as a champion of democracy, freedom and liberty. He urged people not to be discouraged by some economic problems and that they should hold onto their principles and values. 

 His Holiness said in order for democracy to be meaningful, the leadership should be honest, transparent and have a sense of responsibility, not merely during election time. 

He expressed his gratitude to the United States government and the Congress for supporting the just struggle of Tibetans and praised the effort made by former president George W. Bush in promoting democracy and religious freedom. 

 His Holiness advised the students to take up the initiative and moral responsibility for a prosperous and compassionate world and also to generate positive inner values. 

 He stressed the need for a holistic education to reduce the gap between appearance and reality and to promote secular ethics. He asks the people to be optimistic and never be demoralised or pessimistic. 

 During the question and answer session, His Holiness reiterated his position for a solution to Tibet without seeking separation from the People’s Republic of China. Tibet was materially backward and Tibetans wanted modernization, but the same time Tibetans had separate language and a rich culture and even the Chinese Constitution provided for autonomy for nationalities, he said. 

 Talking about the changes taking place in China, His Holiness said that he is optimistic and mentioned the new awareness among Chinese on Tibet. He said in the past two years there were over 1000 articles in Chines on Tibet that supported His Holiness’ approach and were critical of the Chinese government. 

Replying to a question on how he could reconcile the promotion of democracy with the idea of cultural imperialism, His Holiness said, “Democracy is universal and not an American possession. If countries had strong culture then there was no danger of cultural imperialism. The danger is when a culture is weakened and a vacuum is created as in the case of China after the Cultural Revolution.” 

 His Holiness also talked about democratic practices prevalent in Buddhist communities as well as in India, Japan and Taiwan. 

 Over 2,500 people attended the talk. The University has announced that due to overwhelming demand, tickets for the general public were sold out. 

 According to the University, “Since its inception in 1999, the Hart Global Leaders program has brought a series of prestigious speakers to the SMU campus for seminars and forums, including former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The program, which is committed to the development of young people into ethical, responsible leaders and citizens, is made possible through the generosity of Mitch and Linda W. Hart.” 

 He also met with former first lady, Laura Bush, who is a regent of SMU and also attended His Holiness’s public talk subsequently. 

 Earlier on his arrival at Dallas hotel, His Holiness was welcomed by the former Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Paula Dobriansky. Ms. Elsie Walker, cousin of President George W. Bush and Ms Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

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