It was a student-initiated event, and students made up a large part of the 8,200-person crowd that packed Kaplan Arena in William & Mary Hall yesterday to hear the Dalai Lama present his talk on compassion.
About 4,000 students received complimentary tickets to the event, and they turned out in droves, despite classes and looming mid-term exams.
“I am just really grateful for the opportunity to have this experience,” said Laura Traub ’13. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I’m glad that he was able to visit here and that we were able to sit really close to him and hear what he had to say.”
The students in the W&M Women’s Chorus had the honor of not only attending the event, but singing for the Dalai Lama, too. The chorus performed “Songs of Mind,” composed by Music Professor Brian Hulse based on a seventh-century poem.
“It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to sing it for such a great spiritual leader,” said Diana Floegel ’15 and she and the other members of the chorus prepared for their performance.
During his talk, the Dalai Lama focused his message on compassion. Following his remarks, he answered a variety of questions that were submitted in advance by students. The topics ranged from the interfaith cooperation to technology.
“I thought it was really cool how he answered every question, how he took into consideration not only what he wanted to say but what we wanted to hear and ask questions [about] and that he gave really in depth answers,” said Andrea Hanes ’13. “His point of view is really unique and really amazing, so it was really incredible to hear from him.”
Yussre El-Bardicy ’16, too, was impressed with the Dalai Lama, especially his comments on interfaith harmony and the Muslim stereotyping that occurred after 9/11.
"I thought that it was a really enlightening and very valuable experience,” said El-Bardicy.
Madelyn Smith ‘13, a blogger for the W&M website, posted her thoughts about the experience, saying that one thing really stood out to her from Dalai Lama: “the joy in his laughter.”
“As it echoed across William & Mary Hall contagiously sweeping across the crowd, his laughter filled the auditorium,” she wrote in her blog. “I couldn’t help but smile as I turned around to see hundreds of people beaming. His life is a gift. His message is a prayer. And, his inspiration is indefinite.”
The Dalai Lama’s talk got Smith thinking about the power of one life, she wrote.
“As an individual who is passionate, curious, and intelligent, you have the power to impact the world,” Smith wrote. “You can choose to build people up, encourage their dreams and foster their interests. You can build organizations, better relationships, support leaders and vocalize issues.
“You have the power to make the world a better place. You, too, can spread laughter.”
Sagra Alvarado '15 and Graham Bryant '13 contributed to this story - Ed.