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Legislature, Governor Hear Dalai Lama's Message
Part of MPR's special report, Ocean of Wisdom: The Dalai Lama's Visit
By Art Hughes
Minnesota Public Radio
May 9, 2001
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On his third day in Minnesota, the Dalai Lama addressed a joint meeting of the Minnesota Legislature, touching on his consistent themes of human rights, faith, and each person's responsibility to make positive change. He also met with Gov. Ventura and made his third public speech at the University of Minnesota.

The Dalai Lama receives a standing ovation at the state Capitol, where he spoke to a joint meeting of the Legislature.
(Photo/Richard Sennott, courtesy of Star Tribune)
HOUSE SPEAKER STEVE SVIGGUM INTRODUCED THE DALAI LAMA to the combined meeting of the Minnesota House and Senate, calling him one of the most honorable and most distinguished people of our generation. Sviggum says the Dalai Lama transcends faith and religion, and deserves respect for his commitment to peace, and his consistent example of hope and compassion.

The Dalai Lama used his time at the podium to reiterate one of his basic messages. He says any mark a person makes on the world originates from compassion and a warm heart.

"If we carry basic human spirit - human good qualities - then many problems we can reduce, eliminate."

In a news conference afterward, the Dalai Lama applauded Gov. Jesse Ventura for encouraging freer trade with China. China invaded Tibet in 1959, forcing the Dalai Lama to flee to India, where he has lived since then. Many Tibetans urge a boycott of Chinese goods until the government ends the occupation of Tibet. The Dalai Lama says open trade with China could help bring the country into a more mainstream view of human rights.

"If he agree with China, then it is a very good opportunity. Make a friend. At the same time, make clear American values."

Still, the Dalai Lama says any relations with China by the U.S. need to be accompanied by a firm position opposing human rights abuses.

He touched on many of the same topics at another appearance sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Like his other public apearances, the Dalai Lama spoke extemporaneously while seated in a chair. He told the audience of 5,000 that overpopulation and the economic gap between rich and poor are serious problems facing the world. He also cautioned against trying to find fulfillment through material excesses.

"If you have 15 diamond rings, still only 10 fingers," he said.

Martha Alworth drove from Duluth to hear the Dalai Lama. A self-described peacenik, Alworth says His Holiness is a brave and sweet man.

"His presence has certainly been felt. He's bringing a message of compassion and disarmament and conflict resolution that I think we all have to hear, over and over again," Alworth said.

The Dalai Lama's last scheduled public appearance was Wednesday night, an interfaith dialogue with Tibetans and religious leaders.