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Dalai Lama's letter to young Americans

Dalai Lama urges young Americans to enter Film Your Issue contest.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)Ashwini Bhatia / AP

March 2006

Dear Young People, 

During the 20th century, human society underwent great changes.

Some of our experiences, such as the expansion of human knowledge and an increased regard for human rights, were constructive, others, resulting from war and the development of shockingly powerful weapons, were extremely destructive.

Now that we have entered a new millennium, we must learn from these experiences. We need an approach to human welfare that is more holistic, more open and farsighted.
By dealing with others with kindness, affection and honesty, cultivating a sense of truth and justice towards them, we ensure our own benefit. This is a matter of common sense. There is no denying that consideration of others is worthwhile.

Our happiness is inextricably bound up with the happiness of others. It is clear that if society suffers, we ourselves suffer. What’s more, experience shows that the more our hearts and minds are afflicted with ill will, the more miserable we become.

Therefore, we cannot escape the necessity of love and compassion, which are positive emotions that make our lives meaningful. These are, incidentally, qualities we can acquire through training our minds and ways of thinking, which is all the easier when we are young and our minds are still flexible and clear.

Making a difference
As an expression of such a positive attitude, I believe it is important that issues like working for peace in the world, preserving the natural environment and protecting human rights do not remain merely the business of older adults and that those of you who are still young should also be involved.  The shape of the future is of even greater interest to you, who still have most of your lives before you.

I am convinced that if those of you who have opportunities such as those offered by the initiative to Film Your Issue focus on, explore and draw attention to important contemporary issues you will have a positive influence in your community.  If you are also able to rally support for positive change, so much the better.

Therefore, I urge all of you young people in the U.S., to whom this opportunity is addressed, to take it up and use it to create short films that will make a difference.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama