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Power of Citizenship

posted Sep 20, 2012, 9:31 AM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tsewang Namgyal (New York City)

 Ms. Maura Moynihan's provocative, thoughtful and passionate arguments for Tibetans to consider citizenship in their host country must be seriously considered by all Tibetans.  Maura's writings reflects her deep understanding and love for our people.  As a Tibetan-American I have a first hand appreciation on the power of citizenship.

(Photo: Tsewang Namgyal with Ambassador Barbara Barrett.  September 17, 2012 at Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona)

I came to the United States in 1992 under the 1,000 resettlement program from India.  My father served his entire life for the Tibetan government in exile holding important positions.  He loved his job and contributed greatly to our community.  However, he earned less than $200 a month.  My mother supplemented our family income by occasionally selling sweaters in the streets of India.  Due to our financial situation and our refugee status my growth and dreams were very limited.

It has now been almost twenty years living in America.  As a Tibetan-American I now have the confidence that I can change the world leveraging on our indigenous Tibetan wisdom, modern knowledge and a United States passport.

When I first arrived in the United States I was initially given a green card and later I was able to apply for citizenship.   Even the green card (a semi-citizenship) opened many doors for me.  Few months after settling in the United States I enlisted in the United States Army Reserves to pay for my undergraduate college at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.  In addition, I was able to take government supported student loans and work a number of part time jobs to help pay for my education.  It was my new identity that allowed me to enjoy the benefits.

Currently I work in the banking sector in New York City.  My work has allowed me to be involved in the financing and monitoring of a number of multi-billion dollar projects in the Americas.  These include few of the largest wind farms, LNG facilities and mines.  My human rights related work has allowed me to take a leadership during the initial founding of Students for a Free Tibet.  My development work has allowed me to spend a month in Amdo and also travel to Kham and central Tibet.  In addition, I have traveled extensively through over 20 countries and felt enriched by each one of them.  My community work has allowed me to lead a volunteer team for two years to help put together a business plan, website, control system and raise funds to support the building of a Tibetan community/cultural center in New York City.  Currently, I have the privilege to serve on the board of The Tibet Fund and through it try to help primarily Tibetans in India and Nepal.  Again it was my citizenship that has allowed me to find my employment, afforded me to contribute to our people and easily travel around the globe.

Interestingly as a Tibetan-American this has allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation of our unique Tibetan culture.  My economic independence has allowed me to see first hand that material well being does not equate to happiness.  At college one of my majors was religion with a focus on Tibetan Buddhism.  My citizenship afforded me the resources to attend teachings and study both in India and America.  My limited practice of our precious teachings has given me much joy and happiness.  Whenever possible I have shared it with my friends with confidence. 

On September 17, 2012 I visited my MBA school (Thunderbird School of Global Management) and met with a dear friend Ambassador Barbara Barrett. We were involved in arranging His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to our MBA school few years earlier.  The visit helped inspire the development of an MBA oath similar to The Hippocratic Oath made by doctors. This is very exciting considering Thunderbird has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report the #1 International Business school for 17 consecutive years.  I believe His Holiness visit will eventually help bring the relevance of compassion to the market economy.

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to host the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the United Nations at our home.  We had an opportunity to discuss global affairs and Buddhist philosophy with my father.  The Ambassador appeared genuinely very appreciative of our rich cultural heritage.  Similarly, I had opportunities in the past to host other influential friends including few from China.  Despite our political differences we normally come to the same conclusion that Tibetan culture is a global treasure that needs to be shared.  As a Tibetan American I found it relatively easy to gain access to people with influence.

If it had not been for the kind efforts of many Tibetans and our supporters that allowed me to become a Tibetan American I doubt I would accomplish a fraction of what I have been able to do.  The only way I can thank all those who were involved with the resettlement project is continue to do my small part to serve our community, my adopted country and become a more responsible global citizen.

I encourage every Tibetan not to be shy of taking citizenship of your host country.  If there is something to be embarrassed it is if we do not make an effort to serve others because we are the result of other peoples kindness. I believe taking care of oneself allows one to take care of others better.  One way to take care of oneself is getting citizenship and taking advantage of its benefits.

There is no doubt that there is going to be major disruptions in particular if Tibetans in India take on citizenship at a large scale.  We need to think through how we can mitigate any negative impact.  However, as a community we should always make every effort to allow every Tibetan to grow to their fullest potential. One way to release the potential is via citizenship as one will have access to many opportunities.  Individual development to the fullest I believe has the greatest chance of our collective success.