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Dalai Lama Compares Obama to a Monk

February 20, 2010

From The Aspen Daily

After the Dalai Lama’s meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, the Aspen Institute held an intimate reception for the exiled Tibetan leader in Washington, offering a handful of supporters a rare chance to get close to the him.

At the reception, the Dalai Lama said Obama “reminded him of a monk,” the Aspen Institute said in a message sent by Twitter on Friday morning.

Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was a low-key event. They met off-camera in the Map Room, rather than the Oval Office. No reporters were present. The White House released only a single official picture and a written description of their meeting. A Christian Science Monitor reporter caught a photo of the Tibetan leader walking past a pile of White House trash on his way to speak with reporters.

The Aspen Institute’s gathering was likewise quiet. It released no press release. Only about 40 people attended the event at the Park Hyatt hotel, including White House staff, actor Richard Gere, architect Frank Gehry and Aspen Institute Chairman Emeritus William Mayer. It was hosted by Tom and Margot Pritzker, who helped make possible the Dalai Lama’s appearance at the Aspen Institute’s symposium on Tibetan culture in July 2008 in Aspen. Margot Pritzker is an Aspen Institute board member and a collector of Tibetan art.

Thanks to that conference, “we’d developed relationships with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his special envoy’s Washington office,” the institute said in a brief statement. “For his recent trip, they turned to us to serve as host to a gathering of friends and supporters.”

The reception celebrated Losar, the Tibetan New Year, and included Tibetan dancing. For supporters of the Dalai Lama, the event was a rare chance to come close to him.

“People just gathered around him,” said Dick Friedman, CEO of Boston real estate development firm Carpenter & Co., a part-time Aspen resident and acquaintance of the Dalai Lama. “It’s not like it was a speech. He just stood in the middle of the room and people stood around him.”

The Dalai Lama said he was pleased with what he said was a warm meeting with Obama, Friedman said. He said the Dalai Lama told jokes and quipped that Obama “looked like a monk and had a peaceful, calm expression on his face.”

During his visit to Aspen in June, the Dalai Lama met with Obama’s Republican presidential rival at the time, John McCain, at the West End home of a McCain supporter.

In his appearance at the Benedict Music Tent, the Dalai Lama called on China to open itself to talks on Tibetan rights.

“The 21st century is a century of bloodshed,” he said. “This should be a century of dialogue.”

Beijing views the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking to overthrow Chinese rule of Tibet and urged Obama not to meet with him.

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