“I enjoy talking to you all not just because it is my duty but because we will be starting our lives together and ending our careers together. When we retire 20 or 30 years later, let us pass on the country proudly into younger hands. Our responsibilities, country, goals and fates are the same. We will see each other grow old, and more importantly, we will see each other become wiser, more capable, more intelligent and we will see each other serve our country. I pray that you will serve yourselves, your parents and family as well as the country capably and with dedication. I wish you all Tashi Delek.”
Thus did His Majesty King Jigme Khesar end his address to the “Centennial Graduates” at the conclusion of this year’s orientation programme on October 22. The 1,222 young men and women were part of a larger group of Bhutanese youth whose efforts, capabilities and dedication, His Majesty reminded them, would determine the future of the nation.
His Majesty’s address focussed, in fact, on how single-minded and devoted service would establish the nation’s collective prospects and fate. “As a boy I never ever wanted anything except a life in service of my Father and my country,” His Majesty said, revealing how the rationale behind his words was reflected in his own life. “If I knew and understood 20 years ago what I know and understand today, how much more prepared I would have been to serve my country.”
His Majesty the King’s speech took the shape of an overview of national priorities, a blueprint that the graduates could use to direct their efforts in the future. “New challenges and problems may arise now and then but, if there is one thing that I have learnt, it is that our fundamental aims and basic national objectives will never change,” said His Majesty.
Foremost among these national goals was the peace and well-being of the people, His Majesty pointed out.
“No matter what we achieve as a nation, whether we have a strong economy, whether we have a strong democratic system, no matter how prosperous we become as a nation, in the end, if there is no love and harmony between our people, if we don’t have the happiness and the peace that we have today, then remember, it means that somewhere along the way we have failed. Therefore, keep in mind that the ultimate measure of our success as a country is continued peace, stability and tranquility of Bhutan,” His Majesty said.
Another important national goal and responsibility of the King and the people was to ensure the sovereignty and security of the country.
His Majesty explained that this country of the Pelden Drukpa that we were so proud and happy of did not become so of its own accord but through the painstaking efforts of our forefathers. This precious norbu had now been passed into the hands of our people. It was, therefore, the people who were now responsible for its sovereignty and security.
“I am always talking about security but keep in mind that I am not talking about the physical defense of our nation,” His Majesty said. “I am talking about the security that comes when people are united in their love for the country and are united in their efforts to further secure, consolidate and hand over an even stronger nation to their children.”
The third national goal His Majesty stressed was the building of a vibrant democracy. His Majesty said that we had embraced democracy to further safeguard a nation that was already secure and to ensure that it remained peaceful and happy in the time of generations to come. Our responsibility now and in the immediate future is to bolster democracy, fortify its roots, properly understand its tenets and judiciously exercise its rights in ways that will always benefit the nation at large.
“In my time as King, it is one of my biggest and most sacred responsibilities to strengthen the democracy we have,” His Majesty said. “And during the course of my service, now and till the time I retire, I will depend most of all on you.”
His Majesty then pointed out that the final national goal was the realisation of GNH, which was a “national conscience” reminding us to strive for “the happiness and well-being of every single citizen.” It was vital for a small country with a small population like Bhutan to have a shared national objective such as GNH and not work in different directions.
“But, more importantly, we must ask ourselves how we can achieve GNH in a fast changing 21st century that will present new opportunities and challenges all the time. So GNH today, for us, is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality, humanity and, today, the necessary pursuit of economic growth,” His Majesty said.
Eventually, His Majesty’s foremost anxiety, hope and goal, which was also the goal that His Majesty the Fourth King had prioritised and realised throughout his 34-year reign, was the goal of self-reliance. The graduates were asked to pay similar deference to this goal.
They were also asked to understand that Bhutan needed to adapt to the fast changing world and that we could do so only by building a strong, sustainable and dynamic economy. But it is more imperative to build national wealth – not material wealth but tangible and non-tangible wealth.
“I am not saying that material wealth is important. I am saying that if our youth in our schools each become more capable and hard-working than the other, they become national wealth. If one single teacher does his work with love and commitment admirably, that one teacher becomes national wealth. If one civil servant immerses himself not in corrupt practices but in observing his civil service mandates and working dedicatedly for the country and the people, that civil servant becomes national wealth,” His Majesty said. “If the country does well then we all stand to benefit; if it doesn’t, we will suffer equally, so we share the same destiny.”
At the end of His Majesty’s half-hour-long address, a graduate told Observer that the “touching and mind-blowing” half-hour had inspired him to become a better citizen who would contribute sincerely to the betterment of the nation.
“His Majesty’s words were so strong I felt like I could grab them with my hands,” said Laqzail Khenrab Dorji. “I couldn’t join the police force because of my tattoos but I shall give my best as a civil servant.”