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Ron Whitehead

The Story Behind the Ron Whitehead poem
"Never Give Up"

For 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."

In the Spring of 1994 at The Kentucky Center for The Arts in Louisville His Holiness,The Dalai Lama, gave poet, Ron Whitehead, a message for him to share with young people of all ages thoughout the World. That message was the inspiration of the Ron Whitehead poem, "Never Give Up." - Click Here to Listen to Whitehead's question and His Holiness' message to "Develop The Heart, Be Compassionate, Work for Peace and to Never Give Up!"I 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.

At 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.

The "Never Give Up" Poster.When 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.

The 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.

My 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.

Now. 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 question."

On 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.

I 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.

Jay 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.

Was 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.

I 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.

The 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.

The 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.

I am thankful.
Ron Whitehead





copyright © Ron Whitehead 2003



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