"I feel great honor seeing president of the greatest democratic country," said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. "Since my childhood I always admire America – not economy but mainly as a champion of Democracy, freedom, human value, human creativity, these things."
The White House released a statement following the meeting indicating that Mr. Obama "stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China."
"The President commended the Dalai Lama's 'Middle Way' approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China."
In his wide-ranging comments, he called women "biologically more sensitive" than men. He said that each person's religion is primary but that tolerance of all major religions is necessary for "genuine harmony."
The Tibetan spiritual leader also lauded Mr. Obama for "always showing genuine concern" about Tibet and other issues.
Though it has become a tradition in the past two decades for American presidents to meet with the Dalai Lama, Mr. Obama's decision to welcome the Dalai Lama angered China, which views the Tibetan as a rogue separatist. Relations between the United States and China have been strained on some matters over the last year.
Both the Dalai Lama and President Obama, who met in the Map Room, are Nobel Peace Prize winners. The Dalai Lama won the prize in 1989, following the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The president won last year.
The Dalai Lama plans to answer questions from reporters later Thursday afternoon, following a State Department meeting.