WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) - Amidst a heated political season, another big name visited battleground Virginia.
This larger-than-life figure wasn't trying to get votes. Instead, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama visited to impart his wisdom and inspire change.
His Holiness spoke Wednesday afternoon to a sold-out crowd at the College of William & Mary. Most said they attended as to push aside the noise of today's politics and conflict. They wanted instead to embrace a message of compassion.
Williamsburg residents Dixie Wickre and Anne Fletcher sat outside on the busy Kaplan Arena steps to eat their lunch. They're among those few who managed to snag a ticket to see his Holiness the Dalai Lama.
"His message is universal to everyone. Compassion and peace... ," Fletcher said.
Wickre added, "I just think it's a time in our country that we need to hear that message."
Around them security sorted the crowds as buses shuttled in more spectators. Inside the dimly lit arena, crowds began pouring in.
Around 8,000 tickets sold out in 16 minutes. And not everyone who wanted to attend could get a seat.
Some, like sophomore Ryan Brady, volunteered to work as an usher was his only way in the door.
"I signed up for a freshman raffle, I didn't get a ticket and so I volunteered and I got a better seat than I would have," Brady boasted.
A short time later, the crowd erupted to welcome the Dalai Lama.
His message was neither divisively political nor one-sided. It was one of compassion, challenging those listening to reach out and help others.
"Humans are social animals," the Dalai Lama said. "A happy life depends on the community."
Tackling marriage, His Holiness advised to see beyond the superficial aspects of today's culture .
"Long lasting marriage not based on external beauty, but internal beauty. It's based on trust."
The Dalai Lama was animated and engaging throughout, even sporting a William and Mary visor. And His Holiness was not shy to deliver a laugh.
He shared a Cuban acquaintance's take on Fidel Castro.
"He said to me... I pray God brings Castro to Heaven as soon as possible. (massive laughter) .. At least he's not spreading a message of hate but wishes the best for him."
His point being to spread a message of love, rather than hate.
From Williamsburg, the Dalai Lama headed to Charlottesville to continue his U.S. College tours.
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