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24september20091Memphis, Tennessee, USA: On 23 September, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took center stage as a part of Memphis's month-long "Tribute to Peace" extravaganza. The city where African American human rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated four decades ago welcomed the Tibetan leader with warm praise and camaraderie. He was honored in the morning at the National Civil Rights Museum's International Freedom Award Luncheon, and in the afternoon gave a public lecture on "Developing Peace and Harmony" at Memphis's Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.

His Holiness is this year's recipient of the International Freedom Award, which the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis grants to "an individual whose work has had a global impact or has impacted the state of human and civil rights abroad." Along with the National Freedom Award, this comprises the Museum's largest fundraiser and a proud tribute to human rights leaders around the world. "Since 1991, the Freedom Award has served as a symbol of the ongoing fight for human rights both in America and worldwide," states the National Civil Rights Museum website.

Songwriter, musician, and producer Indie Arie gave a special performance at the Freedom Award luncheon, and Chaplain Thomas Dyer of the Tennessee National Guard-the first Buddhist Chaplain in the US Army-gave the invocation. During his acceptance speech at the ceremony, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke briefly on women's rights. He declared, "I call myself a feminist. Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?" and emphasized women's biology and role in raising children gives them a natural reserve of compassion which men sometimes lack.

After the ticket-only luncheon, His Holiness gave a two-hour public lecture to a captive audience at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. In a speech about "Developing Peace and Harmony," His Holiness the Dalai Lama told listeners that he has no magic healing power to offer-only the wisdom of common sense. He spoke with characteristic simplicity and insightfulness, advising his audience that, "We need to work together. We need to protect the planet. With fear, harmony is impossible. We need trust. Trust is the basis of compassion. Distrust brings fear. Fear brings violence. Fear brings loneliness and depression. We all come from the same place. We are all brothers and sisters."

In His Holiness the Dalai Lama's message of universal kinship and cooperation, even the Chinese must be regarded as brothers and sisters. When asked the tough question about relations between China and Tibet, His Holiness reportedly became silent for a moment, then responded, "The Chinese and the Tibetans, we are the same human beings...our faith in the Chinese people was never shaken...We need more patience, determination. The Tibetan spirit (in Tibet) among the young is strong. The problem is (Chinese) government censorship and misinformation."

The public talk was followed by a concert which included a performance by Grammy award winner Natalie Cole. Both events were sponsored by the Missing Peace Project, founded by Darlene Markovich. Missing Peace members Rebekah Alperin and Chantel Sausedo, who co-produced the concert, are also working on a worldwide documentary capturing His Holiness the Dalia Lama's mission of peace, to be released in 2010.

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