Common Ground For Peace

Conversations of hope: Panelists explore topics of education, new technology

Chase Gaewski | Asst. Photo Editor

The Dalai Lama speaks during the panel discussions on Monday.

The crowd filling Goldstein Auditorium at Syracuse University eagerly waited for the Dalai Lama to speak at the second panel of the day, anticipating the wisdom for which the political and spiritual figure is famed.

But he bestowed upon the audience a side of himself that may not have been foreseen, in the form of a sound which rang out periodically throughout Monday afternoon’s discussion.

It was his laughter.

“He is a jolly good man. I never expected him to be that way. I thought he’d be the serious kind,” said Sahil Rambhia, an information management student working toward his master’s degree. “His jokes, his thought process, the entire thing — and I finally find a reason for him being called the Holiness.”

His laughter was echoed by those sitting around him on the stage of the auditorium for the day’s second panel, titled “Raising the Global Consciousness.” The panel of international ambassadors of peace included Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; activist Roxana Saberi; Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi; composer A.R. Rahman; and activist Mohamed ElBaradei.

The focus of the panel was education and technology.

While each panelist chimed in more than once, certain questions were catered to each individual’s area of expertise. King talked about the optimism he learned from his father, Rahman discussed looking at peace through the lens of a musician and ElBaradei spoke of the importance of neglecting superficial cultural differences.

This concept was reiterated by the Dalai Lama later in the discussion.

“Yes I am Buddhist, but I am a human being,” the Dalai Lama said. “That is more important.”

Saberi reflected on her time in prison and the lessons she has learned as both a journalist and an activist. She also spoke of how the experience helped her find the positive in any situation.

“There was a lot of darkness,” Saberi said. “But there were also a lot of stars.”

Saberi also delved into the realm of education, as she talked about the role journalists and educators play in informing the rest of the world.

One panelist who paid particular attention to the subject of education was Ebadi, one of the first women awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Despite a language barrier, Ebadi had no trouble speaking passionately about the importance of educating youth on inner peace. One particular point she made, regarding the necessity for society to get rid of violence-encouraging video games, was met with raucous applause from the audience.

“In order to have inner peace, we have to learn it,” Ebadi said.

Rambhia, the information management student, was especially inspired by Ebadi’s efforts to put violent videogames on trial.

“The whole idea of not having software that have war games embedded into it is really great,” he said.

While education took up a large portion of the conversation, technology occupied much of the discussion as well. At times, it was the punch line of a joke, as demonstrated during a moment in which the Dalai Lama teased King for some technical difficulties he was experiencing with his body microphone.

At other times, it was discussed in a more serious tone.

The Dalai Lama addressed new forms of technology, in addition to encouraging audience questions through technology, specifically through the use of the hashtag, #CGPGlobal. While he joked about his own ineptness in the world of technology, saying that his tech knowledge did not extend far past the 1950s and ’60s, he said a lot of hope exists in this field for the future.

“We can use these technologies for positive purpose,” the Dalai Lama said. “For peace.”

The panel concluded with a performance by 23-year-old singer Liel Kolet, who incorporated a small chorus of school-aged girls in her song. One of the girls also joined Kolet at the microphone for a brief vocal solo at the end of the piece. The crowd gave the performers, along with the speakers, a standing ovation at the close of the performance.

After the performance, Tom Walsh, the executive vice president for advancement and external affairs at SU, struggled to articulate the effect the visit from the Dalia Lama had on him.

“I find it almost hard to express it,” Walsh said. “I feel very, very privileged and very blessed.”

Walsh acknowledged the presence of education as a point of interest in both the afternoon panel as well as the one he attended earlier in the day, “The Rise of Democracy in the Middle East.”

Though the speakers called into question the current infrastructure of peaceful education and pointed out its flaws, Walsh felt there was hope in the underlying theme from the day.

“It’s something I think if we really commit ourselves to find the resources to do it, at least in the United States, we know how to educate people,” Walsh said. “It’s a hopeful message.”

This was not the first time Walsh had seen the Dalai Lama speak. He was in attendance when the Dalai Lama spoke in 1979, as well. Justin Nappi, another audience member, had also met the Dalai Lama before the event.

Nappi’s father, Samuel Nappi, an SU trustee, was a prominent figure in orchestrating the “Common Ground for Peace” event, and specifically in bringing it to SU. Justin Nappi visited Tibet with his father six months ago to discuss the possibility of such an event and said he was excited to see the idea come to fruition. He came to support his father and said he was elated with the result.

“I thought it was great that everyone, with their busy schedules doing what they do everyday, could come together and teach students of the university and give the awareness that’s needed,” Nappi said. “I think it’s a great thing.”



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