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Dalai Lama to deliver U-M Wege Lecture on Sunday

Streaming video of the lecture:
(Windows Media).

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The Dalai Lama will make his long-awaited return to the University of Michigan this weekend, delivering a special Peter M. Wege Lecture on Sustainability at Crisler Arena on Sunday afternoon.

Free tickets for the 2 p.m. lecture vanished in less than three hours when they were handed out last month.

Anyone planning to attend the Wege Lecture will be subject to search. The following items will not be allowed in Crisler Arena:

  • Cameras
  • Cell phones
  • Purses, fanny packs and bags
  • Containers of any kind, including water bottles
  • Food of any kind
  • Signs, banners, balloons, balls and inflatable items
  • Flags and flag poles
  • Umbrellas and seat backs

Sunday afternoon's event is expected to last about two hours, with introductory remarks by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and Rosina Bierbaum, dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment.

The Dalai Lama is expected to speak for about an hour. Afterward, he will answer several questions submitted beforehand by U-M students.

"The University is eager to welcome the Dalai Lama to campus for a return visit," Coleman said. "He is an extraordinary leader whose unwavering support of human rights and the environment makes him an exceptional choice to address the campus community as the Wege lecturer."

The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Tibetan Buddhist leader last visited Ann Arbor in 1994, when about 9,000 people attended a lecture at Crisler. This Sunday's Wege Lecture coincides with Earth Day weekend.

Best known as an outspoken advocate for human rights and global peace, the Dalai Lama will turn his wide-ranging intellect to the topic of sustainability.

"Sustainability goes beyond protecting the environment. It includes social and economic dimensions," said Greg Keoleian, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS) at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE).

"A billion people don't have access to clean water, and almost 2 billion don't have access to electricity," Keoleian said. "Encouraging individuals to take personal responsibility to address global sustainability challenges is central to the Dalai Lama's message."

The Wege Lecture is sponsored by the Office of the President and CSS. Each year, the center invites an internationally recognized leader to deliver the lecture. Recent speakers include Al Gore and William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.

"For decades, the Dalai Lama has spoken about how 'the world is smaller and more interdependent,' and how we need to 'cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share," said SNRE's Bierbaum. "The increasing urgency of confronting climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and famine make his message extraordinarily timely."

Other events planned for Earth Day weekend include Dalai Lama teaching sessions sponsored by Jewel Heart, an Ann Arbor-based Tibetan Buddhist Center; The Tibet Fund; and the Garrison Institute. Tickets for those events are sold out.

Born to a peasant family in 1935, the "Buddha of Compassion" was recognized at age 2, in accordance with Tibetan traditions, as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama.

When China invaded Tibet in 1950, the Dalai Lama, at age 15, assumed full political power as head of state and government and attempted to negotiate a peaceful solution with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders. Nine years later, after the Chinese quelled a Tibetan civilian uprising, the Dalai Lama fled to northern India, where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Since that time, he has worked for the restoration of the rights and autonomy of the Tibetan people and for the preservation of their culture.

His commitment to the ideals of human rights, freedom, peace and tolerance, and his opposition to the use of violence in resolving conflict, has earned him numerous awards, including the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

In October 2007, the Dalai Lama, whose birth name was Tenzin Gyatso, received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress gives to civilians. President Bush attended the ceremony and described the Dalai Lama as "a universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd for the faithful, and the keeper of the flame for his people."

The medal bears an image of the Dalai Lama on one side and a quote from the Tibetan spiritual leader on the other: "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion."

Watch video (.mov)

More information about Sunday's lecture and the webcast