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Why I Support Tenzin Namgyal Tethong for Kalon Tripa

Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010

I have been noticing recently during my discussions with my friends, relatives, and fellow Tibetans that there is a real lack of understanding regarding my candidate for Kalon Tripa. Some know him as a person who used to work for Tibetan Government long time ago while the more informed ones know about his involvement with some of the projects but it was really hard to find someone who truly understood the depth of his character and his body of work. All too often when that happens, people are quick to dismiss it collectively under the ‘experience’ title and continue with well-that-is-nice-but category as if forty years of service can be summed up in half a sentence. I often ask them to at least relay to me what Tenzin Namgyal Tethong has accomplished during his tenure and they can’t relate more than a couple and that too hesitatingly. And that tells me they don’t really understand even half the sentence they conceded to him.

The main purpose of this piece is to properly introduce my candidate to the general public. I acknowledge the fault most probably lies with my candidate. It is mostly due to the fact that Tethong la is a very humble man and doesn’t like to talk about his achievements and a type of person who rather let his body of works speak for him. Unfortunately, sometimes that kind of humility doesn’t help in letting people know about his experience, achievements, his vision, and leadership qualities. So, since Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la is very reluctant to talk about his vast number of achievements without self effacement, I decided to go ahead and do it for him and also to relay at the same time why I think he is the right person for Kalon Tripa at this critical and precarious time in our nation’s history. On one hand we have an increasingly belligerent China flaunting its newly gained international clout while on the other hand His Holiness is considering retirement from politics. There is also the fact that His Holiness is 76 years old and anything is possible in the next five to ten years. This is not the time to experiment. It is a time that calls for a person who has the right combination of experience, integrity, leadership qualities and vision. We need a proven leader who can hit the ground running.

Tenzin Tethong la started his public service when he was a teenager working as a secretary and translator for the department of education. Before I forget, I want everyone to compare their life with his life so that we can truly assess the remarkable achievements of this man. When he was nineteen years of age, he was one of the founding members of Sheja, which was a Tibetan magazine which had a huge following in the 60′s and 70′s. When he was just 22 years old, he with three others, started Tibetan Youth Congress, which has now become the biggest non-governmental organization with its own rich history and is still a big presence in our community. Recognizing his skills and leadership qualities, he was appointed as the acting representative of His Holiness in 1972 when he was 24. That is not the remarkable part. You have to put that into context. At that time, there was huge shortage of fund and was at a dismal period in our history when United States was actively cultivating good ties with China and they had discontinued their financial and political support for Tibetans. There were only about 20-30 Tibetans living in New York at the time and only a handful of western supporters. That was the time Tibetan protestors were hackled and booed instead of supported like today. In spite of all these difficulties and in the middle of cold-war politics, Tenzin Tethong la managed not only to persevere but excel. He was able to arrange the first ever international tour of TIPA 1975-76. And more importantly he was instrumental in bringing to fruition the first ever visit of His Holiness to the US which set the stage for all the future visits and could very well be the one that worked to change the perspective of the American people toward His Holiness and Tibet in general. And at the age of 32, he was specifically chosen by Kundun to head the 2nd delegation to Tibet where he met Panchen Lama and reportedly made the Chinese handlers sweat quite a bit and also broke the popular misconception that young modern educated Tibetans will welcome the developments made by China in Tibet. Later on, he was made the special representative of H.H in Washington, DC in 1987. Tell me when to stop because the list keeps going. He was also involved in establishing Potala Publication, US-Tibet Committee, Tibet Fund, Fulbright, International Campaign for Tibet (which we have used successfully to lobby our cause to the American govt and the people), 1000 resettlement project etc. Now in the upper echelon of power, Tethong la has practically served in every department of Tibetan government before he served in the Kashag, giving him a depth of working experience very few can match, if any. Now, if you pay careful attention, you will notice a lot of ‘first’ in his resume. One of two might be mere coincidences but to be repeatedly mentioned as one of the first founders in a lot of projects and organizations, most of which are still going strong and still a vital part of Tibetan Diaspora, shows not only wisdom but a person who has a keen sense of vision and natural tenacity, the diplomatic skills and the leadership qualities to get things done, even in the most tiring of circumstances.

In total he has served Tibetan govt and Tibetan people for the good part of 40 years and is still serving the cause of Tibet currently as the resident expert on Tibetan Studies Initiative at Stanford university, which he helped create, aside from being a member of the Committee of 100 (yes, you guessed it, he was once again one of the founding members and a current board member). I am not supporting Tenzin Tethong la just because he has experience working for the Tibetan government but because he has shown he is a person who has the right mixture of diplomatic skills, integrity, far reaching vision, openness and leadership qualities that we desperately require at this critical time in our history. I support him because he has the can-do attitude and he has proven time and time again that he can ACTUALLY do it. When life gave him lemons, he not only made Lemonade, but he packaged it, distributed it and created a successful company. Repeatedly. I support him because he is the right man for the job and for Tibet. Nothing more.

P.S: Also forgot to mention he was one of the principal people behind the introduction of the Tibetan section of VOA, a founding member of the Dalai Lama Foundation, founding member of Missing Peace Arts Exhibit.

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  • avatar Mila Rangzen says:

    tetong needs to apply esp before huge crowds rumsfeld strength when addressing. a little modification. not much asking. too soft speech, crowd dont appreciate coz they no impressed. ofcourse he has the steel to take it to the end after initial impression. “i mean business look!” positive useful techniques. tib crowds are no intelectuals.
    right skillful means to get there for self-determination n independence n pure democracy!

  • avatar Mila Rangzen says:

    some time ago this little iranian president melted larry king into a 8 year old on his on ground…cnn. very impressive style of arguing. stength n certainity.

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    Yeah, there is something to be said about presentation. I think he dresses well and looks distinguished. It is his speech and and the way he says things that needs to really improve. But that might be too ingrained in him to make a change right now and if you force it too much, it will come fake.

  • avatar Mila Rangzen says:

    his cousin some wangpo tetong’s spoken tibetan is impressive. strong n yet not fake. watch europe chithue debate?

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    No, I didn’t get to watch the europe chithue debate. If a person has spoken thus for 62 years, I think it might be a little difficult to change. I think the latest outline of his stance in the interview for TPR suggests a hint that he might be a little bit more forthright as the race continues. Hopefully, he can relay that information more forcefully to the settlement populace. Then I think we might see more positive movement. People seem to think we need 10,000 votes to beat LS. No, we just need 5001 or even less if some people will withdraw their name from the candidacy.

  • avatar Mila Rangzen says:

    jinpa n khorlo withdrawal helps both LS n TNT. gyari is still in a delima! her withdrawal should help tnt more but tashi wangdi staying in screws tnt’s prospects. heard he is resigning from office n planning to go full throatal on campaign. that LS job interview is hillarious. can tibetan interpretation/translation be available?

    apart from those big lasting human qualities it does tetong no harm if he
    1. gets a military hair cut to project go getter look
    2. dyes his hair with kala mehendi to beat LS’s youthful look
    3. wears 2 inch flat sole black bata shoe for a bit imposing look
    4. wears not contrast color top n bottom wear for height enhancement

    me stuck with some projects but if time permits in mar i will do the best i can in kollegal n sera.

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    I honestly don’t get how Tashi Wangdu la thinks he can win. seriously. The vote count for him was embarrassing and I was wishing there were some more just because he has served a long time. But at this stage, it should be pretty clear there are only two horses in the race. You would be such a great asset to him if you were able to go and campaign on his behalf.

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    I mean for Tenzin Tethong la. Not Tashi Wangdu la. I don’t think that was clear.

  • avatar LittleTVoice says:

    What now? Therein lies the question of Tibet’s future. Heard few of the interviews of our newly elected Prime Minister and i must, with all my sincerity, admit that there appears to be a lack of dynamism in his approach to the solution of Tibet’s Independence. The Democratic values that HH bequeathed upon him apparently has fallen through the cracks because he appears to be still dancing around the middle path policy and fails to embrace his independent political ideals( if he has any) for Tibet. Thus failing to live up to the aspirations of all those youths who voted him to carry along their Rangzen dream, instead exhibits, the quintessential Tibetan idiosyncrasy by pusillanimously surrendering his Independence goal and readily jumping in the “Autonomy Wagon”. He doesn’t appear to have any agendas as such, of his own, in resolving the Tibet crisis. Dwindling under the banner of Autonomous Tibet is a failure and it only helps China to call the shots at their whim; and most destructive of all, it creates a political-void in the minds of the Tibetan posterity at large.

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