SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Dalai Lama delivered his message of peace and compassion Tuesday to thousands of people during a visit to Utah that included a luncheon with the governor and a planned meeting with senior Mormon leaders.
The Tibetan spiritual leader encouraged the audience at the University of Utah to start with themselves and their families to spread a sense of wonder in humanity.
“Who creates violence? Who destroys peace? Not God, but you. So you have the responsibility to solve this problem,” he said.
The self-effacing Nobel Peace Prize laureate wore an honorary medal on a thick chain and a white university visor during the talk punctuated by his hearty chuckles.
“This is very, very practical,” he said about the cap that contrasted with his crimson robes.
His speech came after stops in Washington, D.C., and California. The Tibetan spiritual leader was greeted when he arrived at his Salt Lake City hotel by an admiring crowd of a few hundred people who waited in nearly 100-degree heat.
Gov. Gary Herbert hosted the private lunch for the 80-year-old Dalai Lama that was attended by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the mayors of Salt Lake City and county. The spiritual leader is also expected to meet with two senior Mormon church leaders on Wednesday.
The meetings with politicians came despite a warning letter from a Weber State University professor who helped broker Utah’s relations with China.
Professor Taowen Le said that officials could jeopardize that relationship if they met with the Tibetan spiritual leader, but Utah leaders said the China connection doesn’t mean giving up core values such as freedom of speech.
The sentiment echoes Beijing’s position on President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama last week.
Beijing accuses the Tibetan spiritual leader of heading a campaign to split the region off from the rest of China, though the Dalai Lama says he simply wants a higher degree of autonomy under Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama said Tuesday that a relationship with China is good for Tibet’s economy, but the country still wants to maintain its traditions. He said he’s sensing ordinary Chinese tourists want to visit Tibet and change could come even though hard-line Chinese leaders remain opposed.
The appearance in Utah was scheduled after the Dalai Lama had to cancel a speech last year when doctors at the Mayo Clinic told him to rest.