The Dalai Lama gave his much-anticipated commencement speech at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) over the weekend, urging students to work together to create a less divided, more peaceful world, amid protests from Chinese students at the university.
In his keynote address, the 81-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader predictably focused on what graduates could do to help work toward world peace. “You have the opportunity and also the responsibility to create a better world, a happier world,” he said. “No longer violence. No longer this huge division. You can do that.”
Only briefly did His Holiness, dressed in a blue UCSD gown over his monk’s robes, stray into realm of Chinese politics, advocating for a “compassionate cultural revolution” of sorts in China, noting that there are 400 million Buddhists in the country and advising the Chinese government to be more attentive to China’s culture.
You can watch the full speech below:
When the university first announced its choice of commencement speaker back in February, Chinese students (who make up around 14% of the school’s student body) reacted with outrage, saying that the decision “contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness — the ethos upon which the university is built” and protesting with hashtags like “#ChineseStudentsMatter.”
The school’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), a group with ties to the Chinese consulate, led the opposition to the Dalai Lama’s invitation. Two weeks ago, the CSSA organized a demonstration at the campus free-speech zone, displaying posters that gave their view on the Dalai Lama, featuring comments that call His Holiness a “fraud, criminal, and power-obsesser,” adding that “It’s not propaganda, it’s the truth.”
As the Dalai Lama was introduced on Saturday, around six Chinese students got up and walked out of the graduation ceremony in protest, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, which also talked to one upset student from Zhejiang province.
“In Tibet, he had slaves,” said the student. “Foreigners say China invaded Tibet, but we actually freed them and freed the slaves.”
Despite all this, the Dalai Lama was still somehow not China’s least favorite commencement speaker of the year. That honor, of course, belongs to University of Maryland graduate Shuping Yang who infamously spoke of the “fresh air” and “fresh air of free speech” in America last month.
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