Among the most visible and perhaps most important of His Majesty’s immeasurable work for the people of Bhutan, are His Majesty’s Audiences to the people, which are an opportunity for His Majesty to Address His people, and listen to their thoughts. Every single one of His Majesty’s Addresses are of great importance, because together, they form one momentous Conversation between a King and His people, and are shaping the way we look at ourselves, our country, and our future.
“I am happy to be here today,” is how His Majesty usually begins an Address to His people.
The setting is often the hallowed Gyalyong Tshokhang, the gold curlicues and resplendent murals imbuing the air with magic. Or a hall decorated in traditional tapestries for a University Convocation, or the National Graduate Orientation Programme. Or it is the Changlimithang ground, festive under a cloudless sky. Sometimes it is a remote village where cicadas are singing and fragrant smoke spiraling across the twilit sky, and at other times, a market square in torrential rain, or an auditorium creaking in howling wind.
The faces in the audience morph if the settings were to be shuffled- old, young, sunburnt, freckled, expectant; villagers, local leaders, civil servants, monks, soldiers, children.
To look at all of His Majesty’s addresses together is to comprehend the timelessness of this momentous Conversation, and recognize that at the core, they all contain the same message.
The message is of an overwhelming sense of togetherness as we look upon the history of our nation, with pride for all our achievements and difficulties we have overcome.
“Our nation has always provided security, tranquility and happiness for our people irrespective of the dramatic changes that have taken place in the world and the region around us,” His Majesty said to the first session of the first democratically-elected Parliament.
And at His Majesty’s Coronation Address in November 2008, His Majesty said: “The wise and selfless leadership of our kings, the sacrifice and hard work of generations of Bhutanese and the special bond between the People and King have given us this unique and special nation – a jewel of the earth.”
The message is also of taking stock of the present. “We are still the generation of nation-builders,” His Majesty said to the graduates attending the National Graduate Orientation Programme in 2014. “We still have many national goals to achieve.”
At the heart of His Majesty’s Conversation with the people is the enduring purpose to guide an entire nation to participate in nation building. It is articulated in His Majesty’s formal addresses, as seen in this excerpt from His Majesty’s National Day Address in 2010:
“There is a higher responsibility – not written in any legal document but instead enshrined in humanity and history – a natural responsibility and duty that we all must shoulder equally, irrespective of who we are. Of paramount importance to the strength of a nation, is the ability of her people to live as one united family – a community in which interaction is marked by trust, understanding and cooperation.”
“Our dreams, aspirations and prayers are one- to ensure that our security and sovereignty, peace and harmony remain intact- that our society grows increasingly enlightened and prosperous, that we establish a strong democracy, which will fulfill all the aspirations of our people, and build a bright future for successive generations. We shall create unity and harmony amongst the people so that they continue to take pride in being Bhutanese and have a deep sense of belonging to the glorious nation of Palden Drukpa,” His Majesty said to the Nation from Kanglung, during the National Day Celebrations in 2014.
During the Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, His Majesty said, “Where we live must be clean, safe, organized and beautiful, for national pride, national integrity, and for our bright future. This too is Nation building.”
And it is evident in even the most seemingly mundane conversations between His Majesty and His People. His Majesty’s questions to people, “What do you do? Where do you live? What do you want to do next?” reflects their inclusion as participants of this overarching goal.
In all of the Addresses, His Majesty has given to the audience a glimpse of their own role in the roadmap leading to the ideal future. Education, Employment, Economy, Equitable Development, Justice, Security, Democracy, Rule of Law, Good Governance, Human Capital, Unity and Harmony, Preserving our cultural heritage- these are all topics explicated upon at various times, and the message beneath it all is that we are all part of an endeavor to achieve something extraordinary- a future where the aspirations of the people have been fulfilled.
In showing us a roadmap for today, His Majesty also inspires us with the picture of the best possible future.
“The present challenges are not so in a sense. In fact, they provide a valuable opportunity for our people to work harder and together, and shoulder greater responsibilities to overcome them successfully, and strengthen our nation by doing so,” His Majesty said at the National Day in 2013.
“I am confident that we will stand together to serve our nation, so that our future will continue to bask in the radiant sunshine of peace and prosperity. As stewards of the wellbeing of future generations, we will similarly leave a worthy legacy. I appeal to the current generation to renew your pledge to the creation of a better and stronger nation.”
And we, with our lined and young faces, in villages and towns, predetermined careers and uncertainty, recognise our roles in this roadmap, and learn to look across the horizon at the tomorrow.
Slowly but surely, we are growing up as a Nation, accepting the tremendous responsibility that is securing the future of our own country, and of our people. In this, at every step, we have a voice urging us along the right way, as His Majesty tirelessly travels the length and breadth of the country, speaking to His people.