At a luncheon at the Duke Energy Center today, the Dalai Lama was honored by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center with the presentation of the "International Freedom Conductor Award."
The award has been given to Rosa Parks, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. A $25,000 prize is offered with the award, but the Dalai Lama donated it back to the center.—-
He gave a brief speech mentioning that he was moved by the current exhibition on display at the Freedom Center, Invisible: Slavery Today, and was then interviewed by Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of PBS's Washington Week.
Along with the Dalai Lama's extraordinary work for Tibet and his promotion of peace and non-violence, the conversation swayed several times to the current U.S. economic climate.
The Dalai Lama stated several times that it was important for the U.S. to remain a strong leader and keep up its "self-confidence." While admitting that he didn't have an answer for our problems, he emphasized that the country should not get demoralized and should focus on the future.
The interview session ended with questions that were submitted by the audience, where the discuss of America's direction was delved into again. He admitted that in terms of economics, he was Marxist and laughed about liking George W. Bush despite some of his policies. He also acknowledged, smiling, that it was odd to admit that fact to a room of "American imperialists."
He ended the conversation of a casual note stating that the population of the world was growing too quick to sustain itself and joked that the best form of non-violent birth control was for more people to become monks and nuns.
The convention center room was packed with nearly 2,000 people, and many lined the stage as the Dalai Lama exited to have a chance to shake his hand. The Dalai Lama's decision to do so seemed a bit of a surprise to the security that surrounded him.
See a photo gallery from the event here.
See a photo gallery from the Dalai Lama's visit to Miami University here.