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Dalai Lama Calls America 'Champion of Freedom' in Exclusive Interview

April 27, 2009

By Chris Spinder and Anita Vogel
Fox News
April 24, 2009

His Holiness the Dalai Lama poses with his FOX News mug after an interview.

The Dalai Lama praised American democracy and
said he thinks President Obama is realistic and
open, in an exclusive interview with FOX News
during his five-city tour of the United States.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, in addition to
discussing the value of kindness and compassion,
spoke of his admiration for the United States.

"I think basically America is a champion of
freedom, democracy, liberty," he said before a
series of lectures at the University of
California, Santa Barbara. "Occasionally the
administration neglects these principles, but
overall, I think these principles are very much alive in this country."

It still is unclear whether he will have an
opportunity to meet with President Obama this
fall when he visits Washington D.C.

"He seems, I think, very realistic, very open,"
the Dalai Lama said, "and he always reaches out
to other people, even though some people create
some problems. He always reaches out. That's, I think, wonderful. Very good."

The Dalai Lama has visited the U.S. many times
and met with the last three U.S. presidents but
always in an unofficial capacity — never in the Oval Office.

But the Dalai Lama said official or unofficial doesn't matter to him.

"In what form, I don't care. Important thing is, meet. Talk. That's important."

The possibility of a meeting comes amid
continuing warnings from China, including as
recently as Thursday, suggesting that the Obama
administration should not meet with the exiled
Tibetan leader, whom China has described as a separatist.

"That's quite routine. Nothing special," laughed
the Dalai Lama, who has not been back to his
native Tibet since he fled in 1959, nine years
after Chinese troops seized control of the
region. Since then, the Tibetan people and
culture, he says, have been living under a "death
sentence" as the communist government tries to erase it altogether.

In light of the global economic crisis, some
believe the Chinese government is exercising more
influence over other nations than ever before and
that economic pressure might succeed in stifling the Dalai Lama's message.

"Certain principles, such as human rights,
democracy, rule of law, freedom and openness,
these things are principle matters. If you
(believe) money is more important than these
principles, then that is morally wrong. We must
stand firm on these principle matters."

As for threats from China, the spiritual leader
pointed out that past warnings proved to have no teeth.

"Look, the meeting with the German chancellor,
the Chinese government was furious, and some
programs were cancelled. Then meeting with French
president, also similar. Then after a few months, nothing happened," he said.

On the global economic downturn, he said there is
a positive side -- if one is willing to recognize it.

"I think the global economic crisis, in a way, is
good, to teach people who usually see their
luxurious way of life. Now, I think it reminds
people there are limitations. It's unrealistic to
always expect grow, grow, grow, grow," he said.

As a final gesture, the FOX News crew presented
the Dalai Lama with a FOX News mug. He promptly
held it up, smiled and insisted he be photographed holding it.

 From Santa Barbara, the Dalai Lama is scheduled
to travel to Berkeley, Calif., and then on to Boston and New York.
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