Losar in the State Department Heralds the New Year for Tibetan Americans, in more sense than one

On July 21, 2014, history of sort was created when around 100 Tibetan Americans from Amherst, Boston and nearby areas joined US Congressman James McGovern at the City Hall of Northampton, MA, as he held a press conference on his introduction of HR 4851: The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, in the House of Representatives. This was a public acknowledgement of the existence of the Tibetan American community and their being a stakeholder on issues relating to Tibet in the United States Congress.

Seven months later, another history was created when on February 24, 2015, Under Secretary Sarah Sewall, in her capacity as the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, hosted in the State Department a Losar (New Year) to an invited group of Tibetan Americans, diplomats and other guests.

State Department Losar reception

Sarah Sewall with some of the Tibetan American artists and “Chang maidens” during the State Department Losar reception.

As Under Secretary Sewall invited the gathering to join her in saying, “Losar Tashi Delek” one could sense a special emotional feeling among the Tibetan Americans privileged to be participating in the event. Excitement was clearly visible as quite a few of the Tibetan Americans who had come to help serve the traditional Tibetan delicacies and drinks could not resist taking the time to shoot photos, to record the history in the making.

In fact, Karma Gyaltsen la, who together with some other colleagues performed songs and dances, put it best when he adjusted the lyrics of a traditional Tibetan New Year fixture, the recitation by a Drekar, a jocular mendicant, wondering whether the Losar celebration within the State Department “was a dream or a reality.”

Why is the Losar at the State Department significant? As Under Secretary Sewall said at the reception, “Now, one of the amazing things about the Tibetan American community is that in numbers you all… are relatively small, but in your influence, and in your impact, you are enormous.” It heralds virtually a new year for the Tibetan Americans whose existence is increasingly being noticed in the United States.

Former Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Gyari Rinpoche, also saw the Losar celebration as an indication of the implementation of the United States’ objective of helping to preserve and promote the distinct Tibetan religious and cultural heritage.

As I write this, we are preparing for the next annual Tibet Lobby Day here in Washington, D.C., which will be held on March 2 and 3. This is an event that has seen increasing participation by Tibetan Americans as they go to the offices of their members of Congress and exercise the freedom to express their views on Tibet to them.

Henceforth, Losar would not only be an exotic tradition of a people far away in Tibet, but is a Tibetan American culture and thus as American a culture as any other.

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Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhuchung K. Tsering

Bhuchung K. Tsering joined the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, D.C. in 1995 and is currently the Vice President. He worked as a journalist with Indian Express in New Delhi, and as an official of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala, India, before joining ICT.
 
He is a member of the Task Force set up by the Central Tibetan Administration to work on issues relating to the dialogue process with the Chinese leadership. He was also a member of the team led by the envoys of H.H. the Dalai Lama in the discussions that they had with the Chinese leadership between 2002 and 2010.
 
He has contributed articles on Tibet and related issues to Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan, Swiss and American journals. He has also testified in Congress on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet and spoken at Universities and Think Tanks.

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