Monday, May 9, 2011 , Updated 2:35 p.m., May 12, 2011
UPDATED: Dalai Lama enlightens crowd at special appearance at Southern Methodist University
He received an honorary degree from university officials.
DALLAS By 2 p.m. on Monday, we were in our seats at Southern Methodist University's McFarlin Memorial Auditorium, locked in. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama would speak at 2:30 p.m., with special security instructions. The crowd appeared eager.
Despite the security, the guest of honor was anything but closed off. Appearing jovial and sincere, the man who serves as head of state and spiritual leader of Tibet sauntered out on stage, grinned at the audience, and tossed on a red baseball cap. It was the first of many times the crowd shared a laugh with the revered man.
His Holiness enlightened the crowd about his ideas of democracy, honesty, and responsibility. “Basically, we are [the] same human being. Different faith, different race, different language, even different culture,” he said. Then he quieted to a whisper, and we leaned in to hear his mighty words. “Everyone has the right to achieve happiness.”
The Dalai Lama's words crescendoed from point to point, and we followed along as best as we could given the language barrier, as if we were riding a wave of wisdom punctuated by his staccatos.
He explained the importance of democracy, calling George W. Bush's motivations as president “excellent” and praising the government structure. “Democracy is universal,” he said later.
Then he spoke to the young members in the crowd: “You are the next people or generation who have [the] responsibility to turn this century to become [a] more happy century or a more unhappy century...” he said. He encouraged the students to get a holistic education and not to let emotion cloud their understanding of reality. The Dalai Lama preached compassion as a destroyer of fear.
Then he quickly changed his tune. “OK! Now some questions,” he said. With that, he left the regal podium and took a seat on a white couch in the middle of the stage, where he again donned the red baseball cap on and answered a few students' questions.
Beyond His Holiness' message, his laugh was unforgettable. He made himself chuckle as he imparted wisdom on us, and it was a hearty, lovable laugh that made it seem as though the happiness he teaches is very much alive inside of him.
The Dalai Lama's appearance at SMU was called the “pinnacle” of the Hart Global Leaders Forum by SMU alum and philanthropist Linda Hart. The series has welcomed other notables like Gerald Ford, Rudy Guiliani, and Tony Blair in years' past, but Monday's appearance was certainly a proud moment for officials at Southern Methodist University, who can now call His Holiness The Dalai Lama one of their own.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported that the Dalai Lama donated a draft of the 1963 Tibetan Constitution to the George W. Bush Institute. He gave it to George and Laura Bush on Tuesday in Dallas.
The Dalai Lama made it clear on Monday that he was friends with the Bush family and that he supported the former president's motivations. The gift is certainly in line with the public support he gave the family on Monday.