Dalai Lama Comes to UCSD

    “Usually, when I give a talk, no notes,” he said. “No preparation. Main reason: I’m lazy.”

    The audience laughed. His off-the-cuff introduction contrasted with the brief speeches given by his co-panelists, Dr. Richard Somerville and Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, both professors at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

    These two professors convened with Tibet’s spiritual leader for a discussion on global climate change. The Dalai Lama’s UCSD visit was the first in a series of three talks given here, at San Diego State University and the University of San Diego, collectively titled “Compassion Without Borders.”

    During the talk, the Dalai Lama stressed the necessity of creating institutional change that would prioritize long-term environmental solutions over “short-sighted” economic interest.

    “Big building, big house, a big car and big salary,” he said. “‘That’s the meaning of life’ — no, certainly not… This blue, small planet is our only home. We have to take care of it.”

    All three panelists spoke about the importance of reacting decisively to climate change, enacting environmental reform and separating politics from the global warming conversation.

    “Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts,” Somerville said. “I think if we de-politicize the debate — you know, there aren’t any Republican or Democratic thermometers; satellites aren’t liberal or conservative — then we could make some progress.” 

    The Dalai Lama continued his San Diego visit with an afternoon stop at USD; there is also a panel today at San Diego State on ethics. Though the Dalai Lama has visited other UC campuses in the past  this was his first time speaking in San Diego.

    According to UCSD Extension’s Director of Information Technology Henry DeVries, the event took a good deal of coordinating between the Dalai Lama’s Personal Peace Emissary, Lama Tenzin Dhonden and all three schools.

    “The Lama Tenzin approached us at UCSD Extension, with the idea that the Dalai Lama would welcome an invitation to speak in San Diego,” DeVries said. “So our chancellor issued an invitation… but with the size of RIMAC, it would be a shame if only 4,200 people would get to hear him. So we approached the other two universities to see if they would like to form an organizing committee.” 

    Between all three universities, over 20,000 people attended the Dalai Lama’s discussions. At UCSD, all 2,700 tickets sold out in an hour. At SDSU, with 12,000 capacity, the tickets sold out in two hours. In the past, the Chinese government has protested the Dalai Lama’s appearances at American venues, stressing that he is considered a separatist in political exile. 

    The Dalai Lama reinforced the non-political nature of the talk in a news conference before the speech, where he explained the meaning of event title “Compassion Without Borders.”

    “The world belongs to humanity, and each country belongs to its own people — not religious leaders, or kings, or queens, or emperors, or political parties,” he said. 


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