Friday, November 21, 2008

My King

Throughout recorded history, the meaning of leadership has evolved constantly. At one time, leadership meant having greater control and securing more authority; but today it means sacrificing personal goals for the common good. It meant doing what people wanted to do; today it means not only listening to people, but also leading people where they ought to go. Leadership meant physical and oratory power; today it means having the influence and inspiration to make others “dream, learn, do and become more.” These characters that define today’s leadership qualities are also what defines my king, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

His Majesty was born on the 21st of February 1980, to His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and Ashi Tshering Yangdon. Being the eldest son to the reigning monarch, the burden of responsibility fell on him from a very early age. Unlike other fortunate children, he was brought up under strict official code of conduct and ethics. He went to school together with other ordinary Bhutanese students, and led the life of a regular student at school. After the completion of basic education from Bhutan, His Majesty was sent to the United States and later the United Kingdom and India for further education.

Apart from his formal education, he has also served as the president of Bhutan Scouts Association, president of Bhutan-India Friendship Association, president of the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, and Chancellor of Royal University of Bhutan among other such responsibilities. His Majesty also headed many Bhutanese delegations to international forums and countries. In 2002, at the United Nations youth forum, he called upon the world leaders to give importance to the development of children and youth in long run under the concept of “A World Fit for Children.”

His Majesty has also taken every opportunity to educate citizens about the vision for the country. Addressing the graduates of Sherubtse College during its eleventh convocation, His majesty said, “I will adopt your aspirations as my own and work towards fulfilling them. Therefore, you must have big ambitions and hopes for our country.” Speaking to the graduates of 2007, His Majesty outlined the main task for our generation to work and succeed:

    • Maintaining Peace, Security and Prosperity for Bhutan
    • Making Gross National Happiness a national conscience
    • And, Building a Vibrant Democracy

All three broad goals outlined above can only be achieved by building a strong economy in this day and age. These, he said are the responsibilities that every Bhutanese should shoulder.

Bhutan has been a member of the United Nations since 1971, where the member states recognize each other’s territorial integrity under international laws. Today Bhutan is a member of all major international and regional organizations and associations.

When peace and security of our nation is compromised, His Majesty will be the unifying force that will bring harmony and stability. Hence, His Majesty emphasized the need for a strong sense of intelligent patriotism and unity in effort among all the citizens to “further secure, consolidate and hand over an even stronger nation to our children.”

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a radical approach to development. The four pillars of GNH: equitable socio-economic development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and good governance are being re-emphasized by His Majesty. GNH is the guiding philosophy for our economic development, rather than a goal to achieve. His Majesty called upon the people to use GNH as our “National Conscience”, which will help us make better decisions for all ages to come.

The concept of a happy and prosperous nation will remain a far-fetched dream, if we still have fellow citizens lacking the basic necessities of life. The appointment of Zimpon Wongmas to identify and help the “poorest of the poor” is a giant leap forward in eradicating abject poverty. The Zimpon Wongmas are traveling to remote places, under the command of His Majesty, to identify and provide direct assistance to those underprivileged citizens who are often left out by broad policies and programmes– thus taking Kidu to the people rather than people approaching His Majesty for Kidu.

In the words of Rosalynn Carter, “a great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be.” His Majesty worked hard to make the transition to democracy a success by all standards. He traveled tirelessly to many districts in order to discuss the draft constitution and get the people's view. When people appealed to His Majesty about their concern and uneasiness about the transition to democracy, he said that the current political environment makes Bhutan ideal for democracy. His Majesty cleared the apprehensions of people saying that democracy must succeed and called upon the people to work with the spirit of unity and common purpose.

His Majesty has repeatedly urged us to be the best in the world. He said that in order for Bhutan to succeed, we have to build a society based on meritocracy. Anyone who was fortunate enough to receive an audience or heard him speak always got one thing: Inspiration. Whenever he meets students, civil servants, or businessmen, he urges them to “rise to the challenge, change the mindset, the way of working….. think big and work hard.”

His Majesty has sacrificed the delights of youth and personal ambitions to prepare for the responsibility of serving the country and people. The transition to democracy would have never been more peaceful without his encouragement and firmness on “One Nation with One Vision.” Bhutanese citizens were always blessed with great monarchs and never had a time where they lacked inspiration to dream, work and achieve. He is my king, our king and the People's King.

[Note: I wrote this for the Coronation Literary Competition for Bhutanese Students studying abroad and it has been published in a small booklet called "Our Hero"]