Standing ovations, laughter and awe surrounded the first of two days the 14th Dalai Lama is spending in Syracuse. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibet spent Monday in an auditorium at Syracuse University taking part in discussions on peace and democracy in a time of growing unrest in the Arab world.
The Dalai Lama sat in an oversized, custom-made chair. He kicked his shoes off shortly after both forums began to tuck his legs in. At times he donned a visor in the matching red color of his flowing robes to shield his eyes from the stage lights.
He told moderator Ann Curry of NBC News he was there to learn from the panelists - many fellow Nobel Laureates - but it was clear the crowd was there to hear him.
He told a mostly full room - made up largely of college students, with a mix of adults, professors and Tibetans - that the role of bringing peace rests in their hands.
Individual effort is the way to reach peace, the Dalai Lama said.
"Peace will not come from the sky, peace will not materialize through only prayer," he said. "Peace must come through our actions."
The Dalai Lama called on the young people in the audience to work to bring peace to the world. Others' suffering is also one's suffering, he shared.
"No matter how difficult it is, how [many] obstacles, determination [and] will power is very, very essential. Will power comes from warm-heartedness, more compassionate heart," he said.
Some of the panelists joining His Holiness on stage were former C.I.A. director R. James Woosley, Jr., Martin Luther King III and former International Atomic Energy Agency director and Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.
“People got their freedom, but they don't know how to manage their freedom or anger," ElBaradei said of the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.
Also there was Andrew Young, a former United Nations ambassador and civil rights activist. He stressed that access to clean water is important for bringing democracy.
“We have to not have just right to vote, but right to water, food and health,” he said.
At one point during the morning session the Dalai Lama stopped himself, asking if he was speaking for too long.
"You will not be cut off," moderator Curry replied, which earned one of several moments of laughter during the event.
But later when Curry pressed His Holiness for a one-word answer to a question submitted by a student via Twitter on what comes after peace, the Dalai Lama began with: "Firstly..." to which Curry simply chuckled.
This is the Dalai Lama's second visit to Syracuse University. Chancellor Nancy Cantor, who introduced him, noted His Holiness first visited the campus in 1979. Tuesday is the anniversary of that lecture.
The Dalai Lama will be back on stage tonight to speak to a much larger audience. He will kick off a concert at the Carrier Dome that's expected to draw 24,000 people. Dave Matthews, Counting Crows and Nelly Furtado are all scheduled to perform, among two dozen others.