Story Behind the Ron Whitehead poem
one full year I announced, at every music and poetry event I produced or participated
in, that I was working to bring The Dalai Lama to Louisville. I contacted several
people asking for their support to help make his visit possible. After a year
with no results I gave up. One month later I received a phone call from my friend
John Justus who was Program Manager for the University of Louisville's radio station.
He said "well I'm sure you've heard that The Dalai Lama's coming to Louisville."
I said "What?!" He said "yep', he's giving a talk at The Kentucky
Center for The Arts next week."
couldn't believe it. I was elated yet angry. How was this possible? I'd worked
for a year to bring him but the doors didn't open. I'd talked with numerous audiences
and individuals to let them know my intent. I had prayed for assistance. "Who
is bringing him?" I asked John. "Only names I've heard mentioned are
Gray Henry and Jay McGowen, President of Bellarmine," John replied. I couldn't
believe it. Gray and Jay were two of the people I'd asked for help. They both
said they thought it was a wonderful idea but, unfortunately, they were unable
to offer support. Ha. Indeed. I let John know how pissed I was about their duplicity.
He listened. When I was done ranting John said "when you're done whining
let me know cause I've got an extra press pass, I know how hard you worked to
bring him to Louisville, and I'd like for you to go with me." I said "hell
no I'm not going to The Kentucky Center for The Arts to pay an outrageous price
when I would have charged $5 per person and had the event at U of L so anyone
who wanted to attend could afford it." John said "look, you worked your
ass off to bring him here. Don't let your anger cause you to miss his visit. Quit
bitchin' and go with me." I realized, finally, that what he was saying was
true. I said "alright dammit but I'm pissed." He said "whaaa, whaaa,
whaaa." We went.
The Kentucky Center for The Arts, near the end of The Dalai Lama's talk to a standing
room only audience, a young man stuck his head in the press room door and said
"anybody who wants to attend there will be a short press conference with
His Holiness in The Mary Anderson Room immediately following his talk." John
and I looked at each other and nodded yes.
I entered The Mary Anderson Room Gray Henry and Jay McGowen simultaneously looked
at me, sheepishly, and offered me a seat on the front row. Diane Aprile of The
Courier-Journal sat on my right and Nicole Brown of LEO sat on my left. John,
with recorder in hand, sat next to Nicole.
room quickly filled with members of the news media. The Dalai Lama arrived with
his translator and body guards. He sat ten feet in front of me. Jay McGowen fielded
questions all of which were the same ones The Dalai Lama has been asked since
1959 when he narrowly escaped from Tibet to India: "Do you think the Chinese
will ever allow you to return to Tibet? Do you think the Chinese will ever return
Tibet to the Tibetan people?" and on and on. The Dalai Lama yawned and looked
at his watch.
mind had been racing since I walked into the room realizing that I might, after
all, have the opportunity to ask the person I respect the most in the world a
question, one question, whatever question I chose. My mind raced, it soared. I
relaxed, traveled deep into myself, asking my higher self to take over. And it
did. The question arrived.
The interview session was drawing to a close. How could I possibly get Jay's attention
to call on me. The room was filled with a hundred tv, radio, newspaper, magazine
people vying for attention. I summoned all the psychic power I could calling again
on my soul to take charge. It did. Jay turned to me and said" okay, one more
this beautiful Spring 1994 morning I introduced myself to His Holiness The Dalai
Lama. I quickly told him about my work as Director of The Global Literary Renaissance
and that New York University had asked me to produce a 48-hour non-stop Music
& Poetry INSOMNIACATHON in May to kickoff their week-long,50-year celebration
of the Beat Generation and that I was taking a caravan of 150 young people from
Kentucky and Colorado to New York City where they would participate with over
300 performers, young people of all ages, in this 48-hour non-stop event.
asked The Dalai Lama "will you give me a message to share with young people,
young people of all ages?" He looked hard at me then smiled, closed his eyes,
opened them, and gave me a longish message. I saw his mouth moving as he spoke.
I heard words, words that have, since that moment, been etched in my Heart and
Soul. He stopped speaking. The message was over, as was the media interview session.
McGowen announced "thank all of you for coming today, and we especially thank
His Holiness The Dalai Lama." That was it. The Dalai Lama, his interpreter
and body guards rose to leave. The media people were packing their gear to follow
him, as far as allowed, with more questions. My eyes went to the floor, to my
feet. I was stunned, astonished. I didn't know what to do. I was absorbing, assimilating
this experience, this gift I had been given. Suddenly, in front of my feet, I
saw a dark reddish color, a glow. I felt a powerful energy of Peace and Love emanating
towards me. Slowly, my eyes rose. Standing right in front of me was His Holiness
The Dalai Lama. Was I seeing things? No, it was him, standing there, inches away.
I didn't know what to do. I lifted my right hand to him. He grasped it in both
his hands and bowed. He let go, turned and departed.
it possible? Yes it had happened. Diane Aprile, Nicole Brown, John Justus and
a few others were staring at me. I was staring at myself. Thanks welled up from
the deepest recesses of my being. I had been blessed. Tears fell. My life was
changed forever. I heard members of the press ask "who is that?" I wasn't
sure myself of who I was. But I was certain that I had received a most precious
gift and I became determined in a moment that for the rest of my life, until I
draw my last breath, that I would share the words the poem that came to me as
I sat and listened to The Dalai Lama's message, his gift.
It wasn't until later, when John gave me the recording
of the message, that I realized that the words of the poem that I
heard that had been delivered to me while The Dalai Lama gave me his message for
me to share with young people of all ages that the words I heard were different
from the words he spoke.
wrote The Dalai Lama in the Winter of 1994 and explained everything to him and
asked him to bless the message poem and give me permission to publish it and share
it with people everywhere. He blessed it and gave me permission to publish it
and share it with people everywhere.
NEVER GIVE UP poem has saved my life more than once and I know from letters and
conversations that it has uplifted, inspired and saved the lives of people around
the World. I am eternally grateful for this gift. If I do nothing the rest of
my life but share the NEVER GIVE UP poem with people wherever I go then my life
will have been worth it.
Dalai Lama has the poster framed and displayed in his private office in Dharmsala,
India. In 2002 the UN/UNESCO Poetry On The Peaks program selected the poem as
it's global theme and 300 posters were shipped to cities and mountain communities
around the World. The poem/poster has been exhibited in museums and libraries,
published in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and numerous other publications, around the World.
© Ron Whitehead 2003