Preparing Tibetan American youth for the future

On Friday, May 31, 2013, in Recent, by Bhuchung K. Tsering

Tibetan Youth Leadership Program

Tibetan Youth Leadership Program participants from 2001.

Next week, we are hosting a group of bright young Tibetan Americans in Washington, D.C. for a weeklong Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) that will begin on June 4, 2013. When we planned the first such programs in 2000 (held in 2001) our objective was the following: “To produce a core group of young, articulate Tibetans in the United States who will become the leaders in their community for activism involving Tibet. To empower Tibetans so that they have the knowledge and the confidence to take a leadership role.”

In the more than 10 years since then we have been able to host several subsequent groups of Tibetans in similar programs here in Washington, D.C. Also, ICT-Europe was also to organize a few such programs for Tibetan youth in Europe during the period. As much as the participants would have benefited from these, it was personally beneficial for someone like me to be connecting with the younger generation.

On account of some unavoidable factors, we were not able to organized the program for the past few years. Therefore, I am particularly looking forward to this year’s program. Many of the participants in our previous TYLPs are today holding responsible positions within the Tibetan community as well as in the broader American and European communities. They have indeed taken “leadership role” as envisaged in our initial objective.

Prior to 1990, the Tibetan population in the United States was comparatively small. The Congressionally-mandated immigration program for 1000 Tibetans that year led to an increase in the population subsequently. Even though, in terms of numbers, the Tibetan American population today is still small, compared to other immigrants, yet it has evolved into a critical mass and the Tibetans are in a position to take a more active and public role in the American political system. Within the Tibetan community, the young Tibetan Americans are better placed to take up this responsibility given their exposure to their broader American society.

A change in the mindset of the Tibetan Americans is also happening. Young Tibetan Americans have not only started to intern and work in Federal and state offices, but they are also beginning to be involved in American political campaigning. Socially, Tibetan Americans are increasingly recognizing their dual identity, a most conspicuous example is the singing of two national anthems — “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Sishey Phendhey” — at community events. While on this, our brethren up north are also changing and it was a pleasure to hear them singing “O Canada” at an event that the Tibetan community in North America had for His Holiness the Dalai Lama some years back in Madison. As an aside, we did include Tibetan Canadians in our TYLP program one year.

On hindsight, our initial objective for the first TYLP in 2001 was conservative. We were only looking at the impact the individuals could have in the Tibetan community. It is our hope that through this program, the participants will learn about the tools they need to become a youth organizer who makes a difference in the American society. In the process, they can also channel their energy and convictions about issues affecting Tibet and turn them into a dynamic action.

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