US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues participating in a traditional Tibetan New Year ritual at the beginning of the State Department Losar reception.

US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues participating in a traditional Tibetan New Year ritual at the beginning of the State Department Losar reception.

On February 18, 2016, the State Department hosted a reception to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, to an invited gathering of Tibetan Americans, diplomats, State Department officials, Congressional staffers and other dignitaries, including the Representative of H.H. the Dalai Lama to the Americas. The first day of Losar fell on February 9 this year.

The program began with prayers by Shingza Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist master. Under Secretary of State Sarah Sewall, who is also the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, welcomed everyone saying, “Losar Tashi Delek.”

She then said:

“It really is a pleasure on behalf of Secretary Kerry and the US Government to be welcoming you here for this wonderful celebration of Tibetan culture and faith.

“It really is my honor to serve as Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues. I think that it is one of these opportunities that is provided with great solemnity and it is with grace over each year that I recognize what an important responsibility it is, and what a opportunity we have to really commemorate, and to celebrate in its liveliness and in its currency, the contributions that so many Tibetans have made to the fabric of American life.

“I’ll like to welcome all of you who are here from the diplomatic community. I’ll like to welcome friends of Tibetan culture. I’ll like to especially welcome the Tibetan-American community, who simply astounded us last year with the richness of and so many dimensions of culture that they were able to share in this small room, in this building. And it really is a representation of something that is much larger and much more alive – that I have been privileged to see around the world, in Tibetan communities, whether in Nepal, or in India, or in the United States.

“So, Todd [Stein] warned you about the alcohol – beware – and thank you all for providing this amazing spread. I think we’ll have an explanation shortly about some of the pieces of history and life before us.

“It was only last month that I was last in Dharamsala, and had the privilege of meeting again with His Holiness, and the feeling that one gets from a prayer, or the feeling that one gets in his presence, or the feeling that one gets looking out on the hillsides and thinking about the roots that have been planted in Dharamsala. There is an intangible quality to it. And, it is something that is very special to be brought here and shared with Americans.

“President Obama has made a habit now of remarking on the extraordinary richness of American culture and how groups that have come from all across the world and from multiple traditions have made America so special because they have shared those traditions with us. It is an honor and a responsibility, I think, of those who have these unique sensibilities, and along with unique food and “Chang” and all the rest, to continue to share them. And, we are truly honored here at the State Department to be a part of that now tradition in our second year, a tradition of sharing them. So, thank you all for coming….”

Reacting to the hosting of the event, Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said:

“Losar is an important Tibetan cultural tradition. We look at the State Department reception as an indication that the Obama Administration is implementing the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, which mandates that the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues ‘vigorously promote the policy of seeking to protect the distinct religious, cultural, linguistic, and national identity of Tibet.’”

The former Tibetan official and current head of Radio Free Asia (Tibetan service), Tenzin N. Tethong, explained the symbolism of Losar to the Tibetan people. He said the United States’ support for the Tibetan people should be a model for other governments.

President of Capital Area Tibetan Association, Jigme Gorap, thanked the US Government for the reception saying it was an encouragement to the Tibetan people, particularly the Tibetan American community, given the dismal situation in Tibet today.

The reception included a display of an elaborate Losar altar, performances of traditional and auspicious songs and dances, offering of Chang (Tibetan beer), cookies and other foods pertaining to the celebration of Losar, by members of the Tibetan community.