Tibetan Youth Leadership Program

Participants of the 2013
Tibetan Youth Leadership Program in the State Department’s Briefing Room.

The International Campaign for Tibet hosted our seventh annual Tibetan Youth Leadership Program (TYLP) in Washington DC from June 3 to 7, 2013. The eleven candidates attending the program were selected based on an essay they submitted on the topic – “What it takes to be a leader in the Tibetan Community” and other additional material demonstrating achievement and/or leadership potential.

This program aims to nurture young leaders who could become the leaders of the community in the United States and Europe.

The program 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 Tibet and they organized a tour of the Diplomatic Reception rooms at the State Department for them. They also had conversations with staffers at the House and at the Senate, from an insider’s point of view.

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.

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.

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.

Since the program was first started in Washington, D.C. in 2001, it was held annually until 2006, including in Brussels in 2003 and Amsterdam in 2005.