Dalai Lama to Come to WestConn

Abby Heinemeyer, Journalism Student

It is not very often that Fairfield County is given the opportunity to be enlightened by an international spiritual leader, but this rare occasion is scheduled to happen in just a few months. His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, will be visiting and speaking at Western Connecticut State University on October 18th and 19th.

Born in 1935, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is regarded as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan branch of Buddhism. He is also a symbol of peace and compassion all over the world. At the age of two, he was identified as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama and then led a life of great importance. When he was only 16-years-old, His Holiness was granted complete political power over Tibet because of the threat of China, but was exiled several years later by the Chinese government.

During his lifetime, the Dalai Lama has received numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. According to nobelprize.org, the Dalai Lama was presented with this honor because he “has spoken strongly for better understanding and respect among the different faiths of the world.” His Holiness continues to travel and spread the word of peace while remaining one of the most influential spiritual leaders in the world.

The Dalai Lama has visited many colleges and universities. In a two-day affair, he will add Western Connecticut State University to this list, where he will be addressing the community at the O’Neill Center.

Ms. Marjorie Salem, Western Connecticut State University adjunct professor and former Bethel High School English teacher, is contacting schools in Brookfield, New Fairfield, Danbury and Bethel, to get students from the area involved in this event.

At Bethel High School, Mari Lerz is responsible for collecting student work. Ms. Lerz says WestConn want students  “to submit poetry, artwork, photography, short films and short essays that deal with the topic of compassion, because the Dalai Lama is known for speaking of love, peace and compassion.” After this work is collected, it will be put on display for the Dalai Lama to see during his welcome reception.

Ms. Salem credits two WestConn professors, Dr. Eric Lewis and Dr. John Briggs, with helping to bring his Holiness to Danbury. Also included in the event are monks from the Buddhist Monastery in Redding, who have attended several of the meetings to help with the planning.

His Holiness’s visit is expected to be a major event for the Danbury area, probably attracting national attention. Ms. Salem states, “Anyone who comes and hears, maybe in his or her heart will take away a little bit of calmness and a little bit of spreading the word of walking on this Earth calmly.”

Ms. Lerz will be collecting student contributions to share with the Dalai Lama until May 15th.