A Legacy of Two Kings
THE DAWN OF A BOLD NEW ERA FOR BHUTAN BEGINS WITH A BRIGHT YOUNG KING who embodies the fresh perspective, idealism and optimism of a cloistered nation emerging into the modern world.
His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, fifth Dragon King or, Druk Gyalpo , is not new to the job. Oxford-educated, our 27 year old king is well-versed in the responsibilities of statecraft. Even as crown prince, the young king’s work with farmers, educators and health professionals in the farthest reaches of Bhutan quickly made him a revered figure for the older generation of Bhutanese, while his active involvement in causes supporting Bhutan’s future generations have enshrined him in the hearts of the young. Abroad, his innate politeness, dignity and integrity make him a popular figure in his own right.
In Thailand, for instance, he has earned respect for his gracious ways in a land known for graciousness. A flurry of press articles following his 2006 state visit to attend the Thai monarch’s 60th anniversary celebrations described him as one of the most popular state guests ever to visit the country.
Bhutan is truly fortunate to have a new king who is not only intelligent and committed to serving his people but is a worthy global representative for a nation that aspires to be a model to the rest of the world for peaceful and participatory governance.
Perhaps, though, this is not surprising, considering the exceptional role model he has had in his illustrious father—in many ways the visionary of the modern Bhutanese state—His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
In an age when most countries measure national success by the ceaseless acquisition and production of material goods, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck taught the Bhutanese nation that the happiness of the people should be the true measure of success. Bhutan’s Fourth Monarch has made clear the pursuit of better living standards should not come at the cost of happiness and the greater good. For, embedded in the idea of Gross National Happiness, His Majesty also recognized that there is a point of diminishing returns beyond which the heedless pursuit of economic goals is counteractive to true and enduring happiness.
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s work of laying a solid foundation for Gross National Happiness and, indeed, Bhutan, deserves to be fully documented, chronicled and upheld as an exemplary model of leadership.
Selfless to the end, the fourth Dragon King had this to say about his decision to step down from the throne: “In taking note of the progress that our nation has made over the past thirty four years, I would like to state that whatever we have achieved so far is due to the merit of the people of Bhutan.” It was also the fourth Druk Gyalpo who repeatedly reminded us that “the future of the nation lies in the hands of the people.”
Both these statements may be true, but we know only too well from looking around the world that this innate power in the people can also be subverted or quashed or manipulated by unprincipled leaders who steer governments to their own selfish ends. What tremendous gift, then, to inherit this deep, unshakable belief and knowledge and acceptance that there is good in the world, that leaders can be positive, open, affirmative and, yes, selfless .
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck has not only ushered a brave new age for Bhutan but empowered and nurtured a population ready to reap the benefits of an unprecedented era of peace, liberty, justice, and well being for all Bhutanese people.
Stepping into such hallowed shoes should be daunting for any young man. But His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck already brings the same moral commitment and sense of duty to the office of the King. Already, the fifth king of Bhutan has covered every district in our rugged and beautiful land, investing considerable time and effort studying the needs of people from all walks of life, deliberating on the new draft constitution for democratic changes in government, and listening to what the people have to say. While the vision came from the father, the son has been instrumental in shaping and honing the ideas into concrete legislation with participation from the humblest farmers to the senior most officials in the land.
The new democratic system, in that sense, will be the shared legacy of two kings.
In Bhutan we plant prayer flags to carry our hopes for peace out into the world.
May the blessings of two kings on the new Bhutanese nation take wing on these prayer flags and reach all sentient beings around the world!