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Learning through heart and mind

"It is time for the elders to listen to the child's voice.

"It is time for the elders to listen to the child's voice. You see, in the child's mind there is no demarcation of different nations, different social systems or different ideologyit is when people get older that they start to say our nation, our religion,our system. Adults don't bother much with what happens to others, but children, on the other hand, quickly accept the notions of social responsibility."

This was spoken by the Dalai Lama before his visit to Vancouver and was the basis of his many discussions involving the central theme for his visit here - "Balancing Educating the Mind with Educating the Heart."

This theme became a source of inspiration for Grade 12 Howe Sound Secondary student Suzanne Miller, who earned the chance to see the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader last week. Miller entered an essay contest in which Grade 11 and 12 students were asked to write 700 to 800 words about the balance between the mind and heart in the context of community building and/or sustainable development.

"I wanted to do it for the experience," said Miller, "to hear what they had to say. Just having the opportunity to enter the contest was amazing. I didn't want to pass it up."

So she sat down, put pen to paper and wrote about what she thought was important to her, to society and to the education of the people.

"Why is education so important?" Miller wrote in her essay. "Without language, discipline and the brain power to research, understand and process information, we cannot adequately debate issues that can effect change within our communities. Education offers an ideal opportunity to reach new generations. In order to sustain progressive society's development, however, it will be important to produce not only open-minded graduates with new ideas and enthusiasm, but also a rebellious class who, ranking compassion and moral fortitude as strengths, are willing to attempt to overthrow today's materialistic ideals and overcome our fears of those different to ourselves."

Miller was rewarded for her insight and keen understanding of the topic at hand and was offered a trip to the global leaders' forum as a runner-up finalist in the contest.

"Just to be in their presence was amazing," said Miller. "It really inspired you to become a better person - just listening to what they had to say about being a compassionate person and how to co-exist with one another in a successful community."

Not only did the roundtable discussion give Miller a glimpse into the Dalai Lama's message of compassion and tolerance, it also gave her a better understanding of life in today's modern society. "It really made me take a look at our society and the advancements made within it - how society as a whole has advanced."

Although she didn't personally meet His Holiness with a handshake, Miller did get to see him up close and personal, sitting within the top ten rows in front of the main stage at UBC's Chan Centre. She was also present to hear South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu share his views.

"I found him very interesting," she said. "He made it really relaxed - he was quite the character."

The majority of the discussions with the Dalai Lama centered around being compassionate towards others, and by soaking up all of his worldly knowledge, one message came across loud and clear for Miller, a message she would like to share with her fellow students and others members of the community.

"You are responsible for your own actions," said Miller. "You need to be able to see not only the faults in others but to recognize your own faults and from there, change them into positive characteristics."

Miller is also the organizer of the 30-hour famine in Squamish - part of a worldwide effort to raise money for children in underprivileged, oppressed third-world countries which begins today (April 23) until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Attending the roundtable discussions has helped Miller to continue her focus on helping those in need.

"I'm hoping to get into humanitarian work, and I feel very strongly about starvation and oppression in third world countries," she said. "I would like to help in any way I can."

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