The program, designed in keeping with ICT’s own strengths and capabilities, provided exposure for the youth group to the workings of the US Government, Congress and other Washington DC entities that help shape the discourse around foreign policy in the nation’s capital and the various levels of leadership and engagement on Tibet through these entities. They had the opportunity to visit with a few of their Members of Congress. They also met with the staff at the Office of the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, who organized a tour of the diplomatic reception rooms at the State Department for them. They also had conversations from an insider’s point of view with staffers at the House and at the Senate. It was interesting how so many of the speakers noted how they started their careers in Washington, DC as young interns, slowly moving into policy and other fields. It was also interesting to note that most offices in the House and Senate are filled with young staffers typically under the age of 30.
The 2013 TYLP group consists of eleven bright, knowledge-thirsty and hard-working young men and women. It was inspiring and moving for all those of us involved in the program to watch them interact at every opportunity, delving deeper into subjects, prodding and questioning themselves and us to think further and learn more. They came from many different parts of the United States and from many different fields of study and backgrounds – but as a group of new generation of Tibetan-Americans, we found them singularly connected in their dream for a better future for Tibet and their people.
In the five days together, we watched them develop a deep camaraderie, looking out for each other, encouraging and helping hone each other’s conversation points for interviews etc and in so doing, developing their own emerging leadership skills. One of the key things we tried to do was challenge them intellectually every single day. They had job assignments for all of their meetings to develop inquiry-based questions for the speakers and we pressed on them to speak out and engage with them. We found that the group had researched their guests, and asked deep inquiring questions which not only helped them gain a deeper understanding but also engaged and animated our guest speakers.
At the beginning of our leadership program, ICT’s Bhuchung Tsering spoke to the group about Leadership from a Tibetan perspective – he used the Tibetan Buddhist term “Thoe-Sam-Ghom” – which means “Listen-Contemplate-Meditate” and he translated that into three steps for implementation – 1. Listening, gathering information, training the mind ; 2. Contemplating, analyzing and determining and 3. Putting in action with a sense of purpose and direction. I saw the group embracing this, opening themselves up to all possibilities, discussion and inquiry, creating much debate and conversation amongst themselves. As the program went along and I also heard them discussing the idea of creating a youth forum blog or website where these kinds of vibrant, open and tolerant discussion on all aspects Tibet could take place. I felt this could also contribute towards building a better Tibetan society. I understand they are carrying on this conversation and I hope to see a blog or website starting soon.
One advantage of having a small group was the ability to engage in intimate and open conversations with all the speakers, opening their eyes to the people behind some of these big and established Washington, DC institutions – helping enforce the realization that it is individuals who make a difference, and the institution, a mechanism. From all the feedback we received from the participants, the experience was rated highly and everyone was inspired and some even said it had a profound impact on them.
One of our speakers pointed out a quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.” And this stands out for me, as watching this group of thoughtful, committed young Tibetans, and knowing that there are so many more like them spread across the Tibetan diaspora and in Tibet, I felt full of hope for the future. Their indelible deep connection to Tibet, that rises above everything else, whether here in exile or in Tibet, is what will guide them towards their engagement for a better future for their people and their country.
Further reading on TYLP :