Thirteen Tibetan Americans completed a week-long Tibetan Youth Leadership Program in Washington, D.C. , on June 7, 2015, organized by the International Campaign for Tibet.
In the last two decades, the Tibetan community in the United States has expanded significantly. Today there is a recognizable presence of Tibetan Americans in different parts of the country. Most of these Tibetans have resettled here from the Indian subcontinent while a small minority have relocated themselves here directly from Tibet.
Now a new generation of young Tibetan Americans has come up in the community here who has had exposure to Tibetan culture through their social interaction and at the same time have had the benefit of the education system of the United States. At least half the number of participants in this year’s program was Tibetan Americans born in the United States. Their first day in DC included a visit to the US State Department where they were recognized by the US State Department’s Spokesperson Marie Harf, who said, “ And then finally, we have some visitors in the back. We welcome today’s press briefing a group of 13 Tibetan American students who are participating in the International Campaign for Tibet’s Tibetan Youth Leadership Program. This program is geared towards motivating and training young Tibetan Americans to become effective leaders within their community by providing meaningful exposure to the U.S. political process and discourse around foreign policy in Washington, D.C. I think the selected participants are from Arizona, Illinois, Indiana – where I went to college – Massachusetts – the home of the Secretary – New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington colleges and universities. So welcome. We’re very happy to have you and I hope you find it interesting.”Participants heard from several NGO leaders including Mr. Carl Gershman, President of National Endowment for Democracy and several other distinguished guest speakers, including the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Sarah Sewall, Representative Jim McGovern, and Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama for the Americas, Kaydor Aukatsang. They attended workshops on media and communication as well as advocacy skills, visited their Congressional offices on Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staff. They visited and gave media interviews to Tibetan services at Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. Their VOA interview can be viewed here and RFA interview here.
They also heard of the experiences of Tibetan professionals who mainly grew up in exile as well as those who grew up in Tibet under Chinese rule, giving them an opportunity to compare the situation with their own upbringing. The program provided them with the opportunity to establish relationships with, and learn from other young Tibetan Americans who are currently working in Washington, D.C., both in the Federal Government as well as in the private sector. Similarly, they also shared their experience with Middle School and High School going Tibetan Americans in the Washington, D.C. area.
The participants also heard about the Chinese perspective of the Tibetan issue through noted Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao. They also heard from a retired US Diplomat who shared his experience of working in China and how US-China relations developed.
The feedback from the participants was that the program had a positive impact on them. One of them wrote in the feedback form, “I feel a lot more motivated and energized about my path as I try to find more ways to make an impact for Tibet.”
Another said, “The most enriching experience in re-establishing with my Tibetan-American roots and renewing my passion for the Tibetan cause.”