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President of the Tibetan CTA named Commencement Speaker

May 17, 2019

President of the Tibetan CTA named Commencement Speaker

SFIS is honored to welcome Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration as the commencement speaker at the 2019 Graduation ceremony on Friday, 5/24/19.

A Special Relationship Between Santa Fe Indian School and the Dalai Lama

The special relationship between the Tibetan community and Santa Fe Indian School began in 1991, when the Dalai Lama visited the campus. The Dalai Lama (who is now in his 80s, visited Santa Fe in 1991 – back then he was not as widely known and it was easier for him to travel. He visited the school and he remarked how all the people and students looked like Tibetans. He was also excited that our school colors were the color of the monks robes. He had suggested that an exchange program be developed to explore connections between Tibetans and Native Americans.

Also at this time, the City of Santa Fe itself was  selected to be a location of the Tibetan Resettlement Project where 1,000 Tibetan refugees were settled throughout the US. (LA Times Article). 

Then in October 1993, four students from SFIS traveled with Assistant Superintendent Hal Schultz to Dharamsala, India. They students stayed for nearly 5 weeks in India. Two students were selected to visit SFIS from the Tibetan Children’s Village and came the following year. The SFIS four students were: Theresa Downey-Lewis (2019 graduates Camilla and Leanna’s mother), Lolita Crespin (Tenzin and Cecelia James’ mother), Yolanda Shiosee (Skyler Antonio’s mother), and current staff member William Pacheco.

In July 2015, SFIS Brave Girls were invited to attend a youth summit in Dharamsala, India. Initially, four students were to travel, however due to travel visa issues only Aliyah Chavez could travel. This was enough to re-kindling interest in the exchange program, however, and  five students,  Larry Tortalita, Stephen Reano, Kayla Coriz, Kamryn Tafoya, Alec Lee, along with chaperones from Brave Girls – Delilah Crespin and Stephanie Garcia visited the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, India in July 2015. Two years later, Sikyong offered to visit SFIS and meet with the students. The all school assembly was enthusiastically received by the SFIS students who heard tales of his youth and his fight for an education. This included studying at night outside under a street light to complete his homework, despite the weather.

This year, the graduating Class of 2019 invited Sikyong back as the commencement speaker.  The Class of 2018 had also invited His Holiness the Dalai Lama to be the 2018 commencement speaker. The invitation was hand carried by Sikyong to the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, His Holiness on doctors’ advice had reduced his travels and could not travel to Santa Fe. The office of the Dalai Lama sent a very nice letter congratulating the class and wishing them well.

- Courtesy of William Pacheco

Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay Biography

Dr. Lobsang Sangay was born in 1968 and was reared in a Tibetan settlement near Darjeeling, North-east India. He attended Schooling at the Central School for Tibetans. He completed his B.A. (Honors) and LLB degrees from Delhi University. In 1992, he was elected as the youngest executive member of the Tibetan Youth Congress (CENTREX).

In 1995, he won the Fulbright scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at Harvard University.  In 2004, he became the first ever Tibetan to receive S.J.D, degree from Harvard Law School for his PhD dissertation, Democracy in Distress: Is Exile Polity a Remedy? A Case Study of Tibet's Government-in-exile.  Dr. Sangay is a recipient of the Yong K. Kim’ 95 Prize. In 2005, he was appointed as a research fellow and promoted to senior fellow till early 2011 at Harvard University.

Dr. Sangay is an expert on International Human Rights Law, Democratic Constitutionalism, and Conflict Resolution. He has spoken at numerous of seminars around the world. He organized several major conferences among Chinese, Tibetans, Indians and Western scholars on China and Tibet, including two unprecedented meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Chinese scholars in 2003 and 2009 at Harvard University.

In 2007, he was selected as one of the twenty-four Young Leaders of Asia by the Asia Society and a delegate to the World Justice Forum in Vienna, Austria, where top legal experts and judges from around the world congregated.

In 2011, he was elected to the post of Sikyong, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people and political successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, in an unprecedented and competitive democratic election in the Tibetan Diaspora.

On August 8, 2011, during the swearing–in ceremony of Sikyong, (Formerly Kalon Tripa) His Holiness the Dalai Lama said:  

When I was young, an elderly regent Takdrag Rinpoche handed over Sikyong (political leadership) to me, and today I am handing over Sikyong to young Lobsang Sangay… In doing this I have fulfilled my long-cherished goal.”