This year’s Tibet Lobby Day is reminder of our 1978 advocacy

By Tinley Nyandak. Tinley Nyandak is a Tibetan American who served in the Office of Tibet in New York and subsequently at the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) scheduled September 22 and 23, 2022 as Tibet Lobby Day on Capitol Hill, requesting US Congressional members to support a new piece of legislation on Tibet: the “Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act.”

I signed up for Lobby Day, and on September 22nd I got up early to take the bus to Washington, DC. This was the first time I’ve visited DC since the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of my office; I had been working from home until I retired two years ago.

When I got to the ICT there were a lot of people gathering for Lobby Day, in particular young Tibetans. We were put into groups of four or five, and in my group there were two young Tibetan ladies and one elderly American lady who came all the way from Montana, a trip which took her four days by train.

Tinley Nyandak (on extreme right in white shirt) and other participants of this year’s Tibet Lobby Day

We took a taxi and headed to the Hill to meet staff members of our members of Congress. The meetings were scheduled earlier by ICT,and I was so happy that the staff members on Capitol Hill really paid close attention to what we had to say, took notes, and asked questions. They promised that they would report our requests to their bosses, i.e., Representatives and Senators.

I was also very impressed by presentations made by my two fellow Tibetans: Lobsang Kyizom La from New York and Tenzin Dadon La from Utah. They were very well informed of the current situation in Tibet and their presentation skill was just convincing and fantastic. Of course, Liz McClain from Montana is a veteran lobbyist; she told us that she has been doing Tibet lobbying with ICT for the past four years. My heart-felt gratitude and thanks to Liz McClain for her tireless efforts on behalf of suffering Tibetans in Tibet.

This reminded me of another intense campaign we did on the Capitol Hill 44 years ago (Oh Gosh! I am old, even though I feel young at heart). At the time, there were only a few hundred Tibetans in the United States, and only a handful of them were US citizens.

At the time, I was working at the Office of Tibet in New York. One day Ngawang Phakchok, one of the Tibetans who came to US to do a lumber jack work up in the Maine in early 1960s, came to see me. He told me about his problem. He said that in August 1977, he applied for a US passport so that he can go to India to see his relatives whom he has not seen for many years. When he got the passport, the State Department put his birthplace as “China,” not Tibet.

So, he contacted the State Department, requesting for correction. William B. Wharton, chief of the legal division of the passport office, said in a letter, “Tibet is located in present day China, therefore, China will have to be listed as your place of birth.”

Phakchok was now faced with a dilemma: accept or refuse the passport. He chose the latter and had to postpone his India trip. Based on our conversation, I wrote an Op-Ed piece and sent it to the New York Times. To my pleasant surprise, on February 18, 1978, the New York Times published my piece under the title of “When a Tibetan’s Not Tibetan.”

Screenshot of the New York Times op-ed on February 18, 1978

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and several other newspapers wrote editorials supporting the Tibetan case. Please bear in mind the power of the media; we Tibetans or Tibetan organizations must have constant contact with both print and electronic media so that when we have an event that needs coverage, we will have our friends right there. It is not easy to get coverage of our events by major media, but constant work will pay off eventually.

In 1978, we also came to the Capitol Hill seeking congressional support for our case. Eventually, the State Department agreed that Tibetan Americans can list their birthplace, city or the town they were born. So, if you were born in Lhasa, your birthplace will be Lhasa. In my US passport, my birthplace is Phenpo.

Similarly, Tibetans in Canada had asked the Canadian government that Tibet and not China be shown as their birthplace on Canadian passports.

In an era when we are too often reduced to categories anyway, the least our government can do is to give us the categories we choose.

Reflections on Tibet Lobby Day 2022

By Lobsang Kyizom. Lobsang Kyizom is studying at New York University under the Tibetan Scholarship Program of the United States government. She currently interns with ICT.

As a Tibetan in exile, the number one challenge I face in advocating for Tibet is defending that what is happening in Tibet is indeed terrible and wrong. Wherever I go, I am required to defend my identity (that despite being born in Nepal, I am a Tibetan), my history (that China occupied Tibet and that’s how my parents ended up in exile), and my life goal (that reclaiming my ancestral homeland is justified). This is a common experience among those of us in exile.

Tibet lingers on the periphery if at all when it comes to “global” news. We have become used to our tribulations being overlooked and trivialized. This trend perhaps started with Tibet’s occupation when, despite the Tibetan government’s repeated appeals to the United Nations, no actions were taken. Except for some countries like El Salvador, the first to support Tibet’s case in the UN General Assembly in 1961, the consensus in the United Nations was that the Tibetan appeal shouldn’t detract focus from the Korean War, which dominated the debate at the time.[1] A bigger blow had come earlier in 1954 from Tibet’s longtime neighboring friend, India, when it signed the Panchsheel Agreement with China, formally legitimizing the Chinese claim on Tibet to the world.

Dawa Norbu, author of “China’s Tibet Policy” among other books, interprets Han nationalism as a response to a complex politico-cultural crisis Confucian China underwent during the 19th century after its sour encounters with colonial powers leading to a realignment of its strategic focus from culture to military and politics.[2] As part of this realignment, Tibet’s “priest-patron” relationship with China was politicized even before the end of the century to accomplish this new objective of an emboldened China. In this context, one could make sense of Mao’s 1939 manifesto that compounds the Tibetans as a minority nationality of the Han Nation. In the next century, after winning the civil war against the nationalists in 1949, Mao established the People’s Republic of China and declared that the People’s Liberation Army’s immediate military tasks would be to “liberate” Taiwan and Tibet.[3]

A pervasive Sino-centric narrative and power politics muddle the subject of Tibet’s occupation today

We often hear world leaders condemn the human rights abuses in Tibet without ever acknowledging their root cause—Tibet’s colonial occupation. The international community has yielded to a Sino-centric narrative which is reinforced by a combination of Chinese state media, propaganda, censorship and state-sponsored “research.”

Therefore, the introduction of new legislation on Tibet titled the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act in the US Congress this year is a huge milestone for Tibet. This legislation is a step toward righting the wrongs that the international community, including the United States, has committed by condoning the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Why Tibetan Americans should recognize their political privilege and use it

For a group of people the majority of whom are still stateless refugees, Tibetans in exile have proven themselves to be a strong and resilient community under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, which has now dispersed around the world. One factor in this is the increasing voice of the Tibetan American community. A 2020 CTA population study[4] estimates that there are over 27,000 Tibetans in the United States alone, the highest outside of South Asia.

Last month, over 100 Tibetans and Tibet supporters from across the United States participated in the annual Tibet Lobby Day in Washington in person after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. I was able to attend the event with the International Campaign for Tibet, which was a unique experience for me as an international student in the States. While there are Tibetans all over the world, Tibetans in the United States possess a special political privilege that affords them the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the future of Tibet. Since its inception in 2008, Tibet Lobby Day has become a powerful means for Tibetan Americans and Tibet supporters in the United States to advocate for the Tibetan cause and spur the movement forward.

It was empowering to see Tibetans of all ages and genders coming to speak up for Tibet and lobby for the new Resolve Tibet bill. I accompanied a group that included constituents from three different states: a high school senior from Utah, a retired VOA journalist from Virginia and a research scientist from Montana.

Our first appointment was with the office of Sen. Burgess Owens. On our way there, Dr. Liz McClain from our group (pictured second from left) slipped off the stairs of the Longworth House Office Building and broke her femur. In her eighties, she took a lone journey of three days on the train to come to Washington, DC to take part in her fourth Tibet Lobby Day. Despite her accident, she persisted and attended all the meetings for the day with us before taking off for urgent care. A big shoutout to Liz!

I got the opportunity to talk alongside the constituents to the staffers of the Senators and Representatives at their respective offices. Not only are they willing to listen to our stories, but they are also interested in what we have got to say about Tibet. I was surprised by the kind of attention and welcome gestures with which we were received at each office. The staffers carefully noted down things as we introduced the bill and talked about the current situation in Tibet. Despite being a non-citizen, I was able to speak about all that I knew that had been going on within occupied Tibet and urged the offices to support the Resolve Tibet bill.

The only qualm that I bear today as I write this blog is why this bill is not receiving the attention, appreciation and endorsement it deserves from within our own community. As His Holiness has turned 87 this year and as we receive bits and pieces of information about the kinds of atrocities that Tibetans inside Tibet are undergoing back home, it is not only critical but urgent to take action.

Tibetans in exile and particularly Tibetan Americans should understand the significance of the Resolve Tibet bill and do everything in our power to ensure that this crucial bill is passed in Congress next year.

[1] Tsering Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of the Snows, 1st edition. (New York: Columbia University Press), 56.
[2] Dawa Norbu. China’s Tibet Policy, 1st edition. (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press), 91-92.
[3] Michael M. Sheng, 2006 “Mao, Tibet, and the Korean War,” Journal of Cold War Studies. 8, no 3 (2006): 15–33.
[4] Lobsang Choedon Samten and Tenzin Dolkar Sharngoe, 2020 “Baseline Study of the Tibetan Diaspora Community Outside South Asia” (Dharamshala: SARD): 44-45.

Taking a Step for Tibet — My Experience with Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.

By: Nancy Lindberg

Tibet Lobby Day

Nancy Lindberg with her husband (Tenzin Chophel), and two children (Tsering and Tenzin) as well as fellow members of the Tibetan Association of Vermont, Tseten Anak Kalsang GGT, during Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, DC.

Here we are in the United States, far from Tibet, wondering what we can and should do. Some of us have been to Tibet or exile communities in India and Nepal, and fell in love with the culture. Some of us are followers of the Dharma. Some of us are Tibetan American immigrants or their children. Our existences are linked together, firmly or tenuously, by Tibet.

I am a Vermont native, wife of a Tibetan, mother of Tibetan American children, past traveler in Tibet and past student and volunteer in Tibetan exile communities. Recently, I’ve noticed that as life proceeds, we sometimes give more time and sometimes less, to things we care about, adjusting our distribution of time according to life’s circumstances. Like so many of our friends, my husband Tenzin and I, gave our time to nurturing our children through their childhood. Part of that nurturing included speaking Tibetan at home, traveling to their father’s childhood home of Dharamsala India, and participating in Vermont’s local Tibetan community and its various events, such as Tibetan New Year (Losar) and the March 10th commemoration of Tibetan Uprising Day.

In 2012, when our daughter was in eighth grade, we decided to travel to Washington D.C. to participate in Tibet Lobby Day. On our way, we stopped in New York City to pay our respects to three determined Tibetan hunger strikers camped out in front of the United Nations, refusing sustenance until their demands for Tibet were acknowledged. They called for fact-finding missions to look into the human rights abuses in Tibet. They wanted journalists to be allowed into Tibet to illuminate the atrocities that were leading Tibetans there to use their bodies as their last statements. The year 2012 will be remembered for the heart-breaking rash of self-immolations in Tibet. Tibetans in Tibet were shaking us all awake.

Arriving in D.C., a Tibetan family opened their home to us. We felt welcome, like family from afar, reunited after a long journey. The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) had organized everything for the three-day event. The program started with an afternoon of orientation and lobbying practice. We learned about the ‘asks’ for the occasion – specific, tangible requests we could make when we visited each of Vermont’s representatives over the next several days. The ‘asks’ were not the big statements we see on bumper stickers, T-shirts or rally placards, such as ‘Free Tibet’ or ‘China Go Home’. These ‘asks’ pointed our representatives down a progressive path, one small step leading to the next. These ‘asks’ connected Tibet to the reality of the U.S. government’s daily business. We would ask our representatives to support budget initiatives, like continued funding for radio broadcasts inside Tibet – a source of news and hope for Tibetans inside and out. We would ask them to sign a letter that their colleague would be circulating. The letter would request Secretary of State John Kerry to make Tibet a priority issue during an upcoming visit to China. We received brief bios of Tibet’s prisoners, and prepared to highlight the plight of several individuals to our representatives (sadly, there were many from which to choose). We also practiced introducing ourselves and sharing our personal connection to Tibet (in a minute or less!)

It had been 20-years since my husband had immigrated from Dharamsala to the U.S., and in those few days in D.C., people from his life in India suddenly surrounded him. His young friends from TCV, were now here beside him, middle aged, preparing to gather not at the edge of the road in Dharamsala to greet His Holiness’s motorcade, but on Capitol Hill in the Halls of Congress. This was our next step.

The first steps had been those of his father and mother, and his friends’ fathers and mothers. They took decisive yet painful and reluctant steps across the Himalayas to northeastern India and later to Himachal. Steps that left behind everything, except the hope that they would return, later in life, when the time for freedom had come.

But as we know, most fathers and mothers have not yet returned. They raised their families and reminded them, incessantly, that they were Tibetan. They attended rallies, educated their children, celebrated and mourned. They passed on the torch. In the early nineties, thousands of Tibetans began relocating to the United States. They were pulled by opportunities for them personally, for their children…and hopefully, for Tibet. The rhythm of daily life changed. Tibetan parents in the U.S. started working two jobs or split shifts, learning to afford life in America and to follow its storied dream. Tibetans in the U.S. adapted quickly and successfully, just as their parents had in India and Nepal. As in India and Nepal, their close proximity to one another (living in approximately 20 cluster sites including Boston, N.Y.C., Chicago, Minneapolis, Burlington, VT etc.) enabled them to keep their culture and hopes alive, albeit in new ways.

Like my husband’s friends surrounding us, we had reached a plateau in life. Our son in college, and our daughter maturing into a young woman in high school, it was time to think about reinventing our personal commitment to Tibet, in a way that extended beyond the bounds of our family and community. So it is that my husband, daughter and I found ourselves, slightly intimidated, wandering the Halls of Congress. Dressed in our best business attire, adorned with Tibetan/American flag lapel pins and armed with khatas and a briefcase full of information provided by ICT, we went forth to punctually attend appointments at each office of our state’s representatives.

Like anything in life, lobbying is a process. Prepare, practice, be on time, be thankful, get to the point, express more gratitude, take photos, share your successes, and remember to follow-up periodically when you get home. Then there were the opportunities for on-the-spot interviews in the halls in between meetings. Members of the press, both Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America were there, curious about how our meetings had gone. We told them…hopefully our friends and family in Tibet heard. In the evening, we met other lobbyists, reminisced about our day and our lives, and felt good.

At the first Tibet Lobby Day my family and I attended, we took a step…many steps even. My family has attended lobby day annually ever since that first experience. It’s on our calendars – somewhere near Losar and March 10th. It’s as important to us as both of those occasions. With each Tibet Lobby Day, we are grateful for the opportunity to personally tell our elected representatives something about Tibet.

Life repeats itself on an annual cycle. Despite the repetition, we are blessed to be able to enter each New Year with a new perspective and a sense of new possibilities. Tibet Lobby Day gives its participants a way to take a few important steps for Tibet. It is all of our combined steps that make an incredible impact. At Tibet Lobby Day 2017, I look forward to connecting with old friends and making many new ones. Together, let’s visit Capitol Hill, and make a difference for Tibet.

Nancy Lindberg
Shelburne, Vermont

My Reflection on the 2016 Tibetan Youth Leadership Program

By: Passang Gonrong

Participants of ICT's 2016 Tibetan Youth Leadership at the US State Department.

Participants of ICT’s 2016 Tibetan Youth Leadership at the US State Department.

My experience with the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) started when I was applying to the program in March. The prompt for the essay question was, “What does it take to be a leader in the Tibetan community?” On the surface, it sounded like a easy question with a simple solution; however, when I tried to come up with an answer, it lead to an ambiguous and complex response. This made me question not only what constitutes as a leader, but more importantly what the Tibetan community means to me. These ideas were just the tip of the iceberg for my week with TYLP.

This year’s cohort came from seven states across the country with ages ranging from 19 to 26 years old. There were students who were born and raised in Tibet, students who were born and/or raised in India and Nepal, and students who were born and/or raised in America. Although we all had the identity of being Tibetan, our diverse backgrounds allowed us to learn greatly from each other. For me, as a Tibetan born in America, hearing stories from my peers who had escaped from Tibet and those who were raised in India and Nepal were eye opening. Each one of us brought something different to the table. We were united in not only our identity of being Tibetan, but a shared goal of wanting to become future leaders in the Tibetan community.

We arrived to the capitol on the fourth of July and were lucky enough to see the red white and blue fireworks on the national mall underneath the Washington Monument. It was a magical start for our week ahead where we were learned the importance of not only our Tibetan identity, but our American identity. Bhuchung la, the vice president of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), stressed that as Tibetan-Americans we have the right and privilege to advocate for Tibet to our representatives in the American government. Our Tibetan- American identity is important because we have the opportunity to help our brothers and sisters in Tibet through this country. This information was valuable to me because I had always compartmentalized my identity. I was a proud Tibetan and I was a proud American but I  did not think those two were entwined. It was during our mini lobbying day on capitol Hill that made me realize how mistaken I was. We had the honor of meeting with Congressmen, Jim McGovern, and Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, who both went on the Congressional Delegation to China and Tibet with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Both of these representatives, along with the others we met during the day, demonstrated to me the duty we, Tibetan Americans, have to champion for Tibet. Members of Congress would not have heard or supported Tibet if it were not for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the persistent Tibetan Americans, and the numerous pro-Tibetan organizations reminding Congress how important these issues are to their constituents.

IMG_2167Our week was packed with visits to the State Department where we able to attend a media briefing, have an interactive session with Ambassador David Saperstein, and meet with Mr. Todd Stein, a senior advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights and concurrently serves as special coordinator for Tibetan issues. We had the opportunity to visit the Tibetan Language Service for both Radio Free Asia and Voice of America where some of my peers were interviewed on air. We went on a White House Tour, had a meeting with the President of the National Endowment for Democracy, and also met Representative Kaydor Aukatsang la during our visit to the Office of Tibet. These were just the few things we were able to do in our busy week.

One of the most meaningful sessions for me was when it was just us and Bhuchung la. We were able to reflect on the programs we attended during the week and come up with solutions that focused on Tibet and Tibetans through the lens of the American government. The conversations that were discussed during the session and throughout the week were stimulating and engaging. Each one of my peers were motivating, thoughtful, and encouraging. I am excited to see the inspiring things they will do in the future. On the other hand, the main reason we were able to have such an open dialogue was because of our coordinators,  Bhuchung la and Tencho la, who created a space that encouraged growth and ideas. We were able to freely share these ideas without being intimidated or afraid to ask questions. This is why I think TYLP is so successful.

IMG_0290I highly urge every Tibetan college student to apply to the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program. The knowledge and friendships I have gained this week will be everlasting. The International Campaign for Tibet has created a unique and valuable program granting young Tibetans access to learn more about their identity and how to become leaders in the Tibetan American community.

Seven days in Washington, DC: my experience participating in ICT’s Tibetan Youth Leadership Program

By: Pasang Tsering


TYLP participant Pasang Tsering (in glasses) and others getting their orientation from coordinator Tencho Gyatso over dinner on the day of their arrival.

It was pouring heavily in New York City — June 1, 2015. My friend Tenzin who was also heading to Washington, DC, for the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program was anxiously waiting for me as the train departure was nearing. Bouncing along the streets in full swing, I eventually made it Penn Station right on time, but I was completely soaked, my glasses, backpack, suitcase and everything. No sooner, we settled down and the train started to move, and as I changed my shirt and jacket, I turned to my friend and told her with sigh, “Thank, God! We are escaping this nasty rain.”

To our utter dismay, the moment we reached Washington, DC, we were greeted with a thunderous shower as if it was following us all the way down from New York. That was hilarious! We Tibetans believe raining while embarking on a new journey is a sign of good luck and a probable success. Now when I look back, I think it might have been a really special symbol. Our seven days in Washington, DC, for Tibetan Youth Leadership Program organized by International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) was in deed special, very special.

Our agenda included visits to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington Media Institute, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Office of Tibet, Congressional Research Service, the House and Senate Offices, and the State Department. We also visited the White House, but that was just for an evening walk. In all seriousness, those aforementioned places where we visited really gave us rare insight and understanding of their significance in American political processes and the Tibetan issues.

Our resource persons for those meetings were NED President Carl Gershman, Chief of VOA Tibetan Service Losang Gyatso, Amos Gelb of the Washington Media Institute, Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration Kaydor Aukatsang, Congressman Jim McGovern and even the U.S. Undersecretary of the State and the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Sarah Sewall.

Similarly, we sat down for series of panel discussions at the ICT office. Our guest speakers included a former Tibetan prime minister, Chinese human rights lawyer, a former Tibetan political prisoner, a motivational speaker, a former State Department senior official, and also ICT president, vice president and director of government relations.

Almost all our training sessions were less formal and more casual. Everyone participated in the discussion as necessary posing questions and adding comments. Just as much as we learned from our resource persons, we learned from each other too in so many ways. Our cohort of 13 attendees ranged from a rising junior to a doctorate candidate and we all had mostly different upbringing and educational and professional background.

For me, the leadership training was special not just because of the places we visited and the people we met and interacted with, but also because of the positive imprints that it instilled in each and every one of us in the process.

Of course, every attendee could have his or her own individual goal for going there, but Bhuchung Tsering, the vice president of ICT, set us a very clear collective goal on the very first day at the orientation. He said, “ICT has overarching goals to achieve from this training, but, in my view, if you can achieve one singular goal, it is more than enough and that goal is to change our mindset.”

Mr. Bhuchung Tsering highlighted the fact that we, Tibetans, identify ourselves as Tibetan refugees or simply Tibetans. Even younger generation who are born and brought up here on American soil consider themselves as Tibetan refugees or may be Tibetans, but not Americans. He stressed, “You are not only Tibetans, you are Tibetan-Americans, too. You are Americans just as everyone else in this country.”

The main reason why he was emphasizing us to recognize this fact was to encourage younger generation to engage ourselves into the civic and cultural life of the American society and be a part of the processes in making a difference here in the country and abroad. Simultaneously, we can help our ancestral land Tibet and Tibetan people through American political, economic and social processes.

This mission of changing our mindset might be a brilliant and doable idea for some, but a daunting challenge for others. We had attendees who were born and brought up here and they are through and through Americans just as they are through and through Tibetans. For them, they might be able to simply fine-tune their narrative. For those who recently immigrated to the United States, including myself, it was a lofty challenge. In fact, it is a constant struggle.

As someone who has a deep appreciation for Buddhist philosophy, I am always mindful of not being carried away by the three sources of evils — attachment, anger and ignorance. Hence, my challenge of finding difficulty in identifying myself as an American is not out of my attachment to my birthplace Nepal or my ancestral land Tibet or obsession with Tibetan pride for that matter, but it was rather my earnest effort in searching the American spirit within my soul deep down inside.

Never in my wildest dream would I dare to identify myself as an American simply because I want to claim rights or pursue personal ends. I would not do it even if the law of the land says I am an American citizen and that I am guaranteed with those inalienable rights for I believe every right comes with duties and one of those sacred duties is to be a genuine American by heart and mind, which can never be determined by one’s place of birth or a piece of paper nor by an accent of speech or color of skin.

To my great joy, another special moment of this training was I found a solace in my search of American spirit. Among many others, Tibetans and Americans have one but the most important thing in common i.e. our values. We are bound by our shared values that treasure life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That to me is more than enough reason to tie the knot for these two partners once and for all — Tibetan-American!

Mission accomplished. Thank you, ICT!

Make the US Congress hear the voice of Tibet – Join Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, DC

This year’s Tibet Lobby Day in Washington DC will take place on Monday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 3. All supporters and friends of Tibet are invited to join the event – the sign up deadline is February 25, 2015.

This annual event, which began 7 years ago, brings together over a hundred Tibetan-Americans and friends of Tibet to Washington DC. ICT will host a lobby training session on March 1, and with information and folders in hand, participants will be able to visit offices of their Representatives and Senators in the US Capital. ICT makes the appointments for the meetings, equips you with information, folders and a great team to work with – it is a great opportunity to meet Tibet supporters from across the US as well as advocate directly on Tibet with your elected leaders. In 2014, more than one hundred Tibetan-Americans, Tibet Support Groups, Tibetan Associations and individual Tibet supporters made it to DC, meeting with over 150 Congressional offices to voice their support and ask for engagement on Tibet. This is the type of support that Tibet needs.

The U.S. Congress has long been a bulwark of support for Tibet, from giving His Holiness the Dalai Lama his first parliamentary forum in 1987, to millions of dollars in Tibet support programs every year. But at the same time it is of vital importance that we continue to remind our Members of Congress of their longstanding commitment to Tibet. Faced with the well-funded lobbying might of the Chinese Embassy, it is critical that we speak out to let our elected representatives know of the breadth and depth of support for the cause of Tibet amongst their constituents and ensure that Tibet continues to remain on their legislative agendas.

We recently heard that the Chinese government has hired a new communications firm to make its voice heard in Washington, DC – The Rogich Communications Group has been hired to advise the People’s Republic of China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai “on matters related to strengthening the bilateral relationship between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. These efforts include counseling the Government of the People’s Republic of China on how to effectively present its views to the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States Government and to business interests within the United States of America.”

But Tibet does not need a firm. It has the voice of its people and its friends to tell the US government that what the Chinese government is doing in Tibet is wrong and the US government must support Tibetans. So join us on March 2 and 3 to be a Voice for Tibet and help ensure that the voice of Tibetans is amplified in the halls of Congress.

SIGN UP DEADLINE: February 25, 2015

2014 Tibetan Youth Leadership Program: My Reflection

By: Jigme Taring

Dear Reader,

I am humbly taking this opportunity to reflect on my experience with this year’s Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) organized by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

TYLP as you may know- or if you don’t know- is just one of the many virtuous works ICT provides for the ever-changing Tibetan movement. I can confirm that this specific program, led by ICT’s Tencho Gyatso la and Bhuchung Tsering la, is an extremely enlightening experience for the Tibetan-American youth. The program serves to empower 10 ambitious young Tibetan-American (undergrad/grad) students every year who feel a deep passion for the Tibetan cause and equip them with the necessary knowledge and tools in order to become effective leaders in the Tibetan community.

From the 10 participants in this year’s TYLP, we came from nine different states, several different fields of study, and unique stories and backgrounds, which made for a truly diverse and dynamic group. I believe there was a no better host city for this type of event than the nation’s capital, Washington DC. We were housed comfortably in George Washington University’s Thurston Hall for the eventful week. I must also mention that the food, traveling, room and board expenses were all graciously paid for by ICT, making this program incomparable.

Some wonder why TYLP is limited to just 10 participants. I’m assuming there are many reasons for this, but I personally felt it provided a more intimate experience for the participants, all of the people we met, places we saw, and so on. In fact, my favorite part of the program was meeting and interacting with the other participants. We all became very close by the end of the week, and I plan to keep in contact with all of them. Being the youngest participant, I found it useful to serve as a sponge at times to soak in all the knowledge and experience from others. Some of the most informative and interesting debates were actually done off the clock, in the dorms.

The schedule over the course of the five days was quite intensive and elaborately planned. Throughout the week we visited many influential places such as the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and The Office of Tibet, just to mention a few. At the Washington Media Institute, a highly animated instructor by the name of Mr. Amos Gelb taught us how the media plays an integral role in politics. Back at the ICT office, we met with leaders in the Tibetan movement as well as Chinese scholars. From all the invigorating discussions that we had with the notable figures, what I enjoyed most was the way they challenged our way of thinking. They gave us perspectives we would never ponder. I felt that this constant challenge throughout the week immensely motivated us and presented the reality of our Tibetan situation today.

A personal highlight from the week was being able to partake in a live radio talk show at the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia (RFA). Tenzing Rapden Lama la, Dede Dolkar la, and I represented our TYLP group on that morning where we were asked to speak on a variety of topics, ranging from our experience during the week to more controversial topics such as “Rangzen vs. Umaylam.” Although it was a bit nerve-racking, it was a good experience for us to be able to articulate our thoughts on the spot on live radio in our native tongue. I believe you can find the clip of our live show on YouTube.

One important lesson I attained from the week (which I mentioned on the radio show) was a message given by Mr. Lodi Gyari, former Special Envoy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who shared his thoughts on what he hopes to see in this new generation of Tibetans worldwide. He said we need more professionals. We can be professionals in anything, whether it is a lawyer, painter, politician, doctor, etc. Just being a Tibetan, and a Tibetan professional at that, carries tremendous weight and strengthens the entirety of our global Tibetan community. With our abundance of resources and our access to quality education in exile, I see more and more Tibetan professionals from all departments in the coming years.

Another influential lesson I took from the week was the significance of being a “Tibetan-American.” Bhuchung Tsering la explained why we should identify ourselves as Tibetan-Americans and not just merely Tibetan or American, respectively. By being a Tibetan-American we have a substantial amount of opportunities as citizens of the United States, combined with a great deal of responsibility to use our opportunities to help our brothers and sisters in Tibet. So we must embrace and understand what it means to be a Tibetan-American and fully utilize it to our advantage.

All in all, considering the quality of the preparation, intensity of the program, and having all the expenses paid for by ICT, there is no other program of this magnitude with these types of benefits. I whole-heartedly encourage any Tibetan-American University students reading this to apply for this unparalleled week. I especially recommend the younger students, 18-20, to apply as I did.


Jigme Taring