ASU Project Humanities receives commendation from Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama letter

Arizona State University's Project Humanities received high praise from the Dalai Lama, who recently lauded the award-winning initiative for its Humanity 101 community outreach with a letter of recommendation and words of encouragement to continue its work.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan. He frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness; the fostering of inter-religious harmony; and the preservation of Tibet's Buddhist culture, a culture of peace and non-violence. His goals are in alliance with Project Humanities, which is a multidisciplinary initiative that brings diverse communities together to talk, listen and connect. About the Project Humanities initiative that promotes these principles – respect, integrity, kindness, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and self-reflection – the Dalai Lama writes:

"I commend the Humanity 101 effort by Project Humanities at Arizona State University as it is an admirable effort to promote fundamental human values such as kindness, compassion, etc. among educators and students. These human values, which are part of what I call secular ethics, have the capacity to make our lives happier. I hope the initiative will be able to reach to the widest number of communities and peoples."

Neal A. Lester, Foundation Professor of English and founding director of Project Humanities, said the Dalai Lama’s endorsement gives the initiative wider recognition and the ability to reach more people.

“While the Humanity 101 effort is not necessarily faith-based, it is gratifying and humbling to have this important global endorsement that what we are doing locally, regionally, nationally, and now internationally across generations, communities and disciplines really matters,” Lester said.

Lester took the Dalai Lama’s words to heart by bringing his Humanity 101 lecture "Straight Talk about the N-Word" to Oak Park, Illinois, just west of Chicago. More than 100 people attended the Oct. 1 lecture at the Oak Park Public Library, which was highly interactive and engaging.

“As a library focused on turning outward toward its community, bringing Humanity 101 to Oak Park is an incredible experience for us,” says Cynthia Landrum, assistant director of public services at the library. "Dr. Lester, with his deep historical and cultural knowledge, gave us a powerful way to launch our own local dialogue, as part of a six-week series aimed at inspiring our community to 'talk, listen and connect.’ We are honored to be part of a growing initiative that engages in and supports these efforts."

Lester also spoke earlier that same day to a theater-filled group of approximately 250 high school students.

ASU’s Project Humanities is a university-wide initiative that promotes and showcases the range, relevance and diversity of faculty and student humanities outreach via scholarly lectures and panels, premiere film screenings, workshops, performances and other diverse programs.

With both a national and international presence in conversations about the role, impact and importance of humanities study, content, courses and multidisciplinary institutional and community collaboration, Project Humanities sponsors or co-sponsors approximately 100 programs a year. Themed biannual kickoffs such as “Perspectives on Place”; “Are We Losing Our Humanity?”; “Heroes, Superheroes and Superhumans”; “Humor…Seriously!”; “Truth”; “American Music”; and “Humanity 101: Creating a Movement” have featured high-profile guests and scholars, student and community participation, and garnered local, regional and national attention.

For more information on Project Humanities, visit For more information on and participation in the Humanity 101 effort, visit