Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."


Tenzin Jamyang has an easygoing, affable demeanor. Conversations flow easily with him. But he says this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in Dharamsala, India, Tenzin was always first in his class academically but below the curve in interpersonal skills. It wasn’t until his last two years of high school, spent at United World College in Wales, that his social intelligence blossomed.

“I locked myself in my room on the first day of UWC,” Tenzin says. But he spent the next two years emerging from his shell, gradually developing into the communicative person he is today. College gave him a chance to hone these new skills; he started out as an engineering major but ended up with a degree in English literature.

Being the only non-native English speaker in his literature classes was often intimidating. Tenzin compensated by working harder, averaging four hours of sleep per night throughout college. He shares how a degree often seen as impractical actually led to invaluable growth. “Learning literature makes you more empathetic,” he explains. “You learn different perspectives, so you are not as quick to judge others. You give people the benefit of the doubt.”

This perspective has been critical given his background. Tenzin grew up in India because his grandparents had fled their native land during the Tibetan uprising of 1959. Tenzin’s mother was actually born en route to Dharamsala, as her parents were escaping Chinese repression.

When Tenzin’s father came of age, he dedicated his life to working for the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE). He currently presides as the parliamentary secretariat in the Tibetan parliament. All his life, Tenzin heard his father argue that the key to harmony in any conflict is understanding the other side’s perspective. In Tenzin’s undergraduate years as an English major, he began to truly appreciate the wisdom of this approach.

“By appealing to the empathy of the larger Chinese population, we could resolve our differences and end the sufferings in Tibet.”

He returned to his community in Dharamsala to use his emerging communication skills at an internship with the TGIE. In the department of information and internal relations, he witnessed and helped to express the building of consensus on the TGIE’s approach to China. It was during this process that he realized the importance of knowing the Chinese language. “The decades-long practice of antagonizing each other is not the solution anymore, and it never was,” he says. “By appealing to the empathy of the larger Chinese population, we could resolve our differences and end the sufferings in Tibet.”

Proficiency in Chinese is critical to Tenzin’s aspirations as an advocate for peace; it is also crucial for his future in business. Having worked as an analyst at a brokerage firm in New York, he now plans to earn an MBA and set up shop in China as a value investor. Getting more Tibetans into finance, he believes, will help the voice of his community be heard. “Being economically successful is another form of dialogue,” he says. “We can be a force for change.”