Cambridge, MA, USA, 30 April 2009 (By Michael Paulson, The Boston Globe) - In my many years as a newspaper reporter, I've been to a lot of groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings and other events that journalists tend to dismiss as "dog and pony shows,'' but I must say I've never seen a dignitary take to a tree planting with quite as much gusto as the 73-year-old Dalai Lama showed in Harvard Yard this morning.
It was just after the Tibetan Buddhist leader had delivered a talk on education inside Memorial Church (more on that in tomorrow's paper), on a patch of grass (OK, on a piece of fake green stuff that had been placed over the ground) just in front of the chapel-cum-war memorial. Harvard's staff arborists (yup, Harvard has a staff of botanists, horticulturists and arborists over at the Arnold Arboretum) had apparently created a hybrid tree just for the Dalai Lama -- a blend of the Monarch Birch from Asia and the Paper Birch from North America that is supposed to evoke trees significant in both Tibetan and Native American cultures.
The event began with the requisite speeches. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust reviewed the Latin-Sanskrit etymology of the word "birch,'' and the uses of the tree by various cultures, including, she said, the use of its bark for the recording of the earliest Buddhist texts.
"Just as His Holiness has linked East and West, and inspired so many with his leadership and humility, so shall this tree combine the expression of a large heart and a tradition of simple service,'' Faust said, before giving the Buddhist leader a framed rendering of a birch tree in three seasons.