Image: The Dalai Lama, left, prays
Mark Humphrey  /  AP
The Dalai Lama, left, prays on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel Wednesday, Sept. 23, in Memphis, Tenn., where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. With him are Rev. Billy Kyles, center, and Rev. Benjamin Hooks, right.
updated 9/23/2009 4:14:53 PM ET 2009-09-23T20:14:53

The Dalai Lama said his visit Wednesday to the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated was sad but inspirational.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was in Memphis to receive the International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, which incorporates the site of the Lorraine Motel.

The Dalai Lama draped a white shawl over a wreath that hangs over the balcony where King was shot in 1968.

He toured the museum with the Rev. Samuel Kyles, who was with King when he was shot.

Kyles told the Dalai Lama that in 40 years he's never found the words to express his feelings about the day King was killed.

"Yes, you can kill the dreamer. No, you can't kill the dream," Kyles said.

Kyles said the civil rights movement was like the Tibetans' struggle with China for more autonomy.

"This history event gives us conviction today the struggle for justice, against inequality, discrimination ... despite many difficulties and obstacles, can be won," the Dalai Lama said.

He said he often invoked King's name as an example of a freedom fighter who was a true practitioner of nonviolence. The Dalai Lama expressed optimism for Tibet's future, saying totalitarianism was not practical and outdated.

"China has the same constitution, the same one-party system, but compared to 30 or 40 years ago, it has already changed," he said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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