Harvard Law School Scholar to Lead Tibet

Harvard Law School research fellow Lobsang Sangay has been elected the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Sangay was the first Tibetan to graduate from the Law School. A Fulbright Scholar, Sangay earned both his J.D. and LL.M. at Harvard Law School and researched in the East Asian Legal Studies Program.

Though he was criticized for comparing himself with President Obama and for his little experience in government, Sangay was the front-runner throughout the campaign, eventually garnering 55 percent of the vote and beating out two other candidates. In an interview with The Crimson this February, Sangay said that he was ready to make the necessary sacrifices that will come with being the prime minister, including moving to India, where the government-in-exile’s headquarters are located.

“It’s a duty for a cause, for a movement. I’ve always worked for Tibet and the Tibetan people,” Sangay said. “These are minor challenges compared to the sacrifices made by Tibetans in Tibet.”

Law School Professor William P. Alford said that Sangay was “stepping up” during an important historical moment in Tibet’s history.

Alford, who served as an advisor for Sangay’s doctoral dissertation and directs the program for which Sangay was a research fellow, said that with the retirement of the Dalai Lama, the next few years will see a large transformation in the Tibetan community.

“Intellectually he expanded his horizons here, and studied history of many other societies, studied political science, studied about leadership, about [the] role of the legal institutions,” Alford said. “He comes out [of the Law School] with strong intellectual resources, [and] he’s really developed himself in substantial ways.”

Sangay’s classmates describe him as an individual capable of bringing together people of different opinions.

Leia Castañeda Anastacio, a research associate at the Law School in the East Asian Legal Studies Program, who took a class with Sangay, characterized him as “funny,” “considerate,” and “laid back,” adding that he had an unlikely close friendship with a classmate from China.

Sangay noted that the Law School gave him opportunities to discuss the problems Tibet faces with a wide variety of scholars who come from different backgrounds.

“Exposure to diverse views, ways of thinking, and how leaders conduct themselves have definitely helped me become both an individual and an academic, as well a leader,” Sangay told The Crimson in February.

—Staff writer Caroline M. McKay can be reached at carolinemckay@college.harvard.edu.

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