We come together on December 17 every year. We celebrate the National Day. We celebrate nationhood. The Druk Gyalpo addresses the nation, offers his appreciation to the people and shares his wisdom leaving the people inspired and comforted.

It is also a day when the King honours his people for their contribution to nation building. There is always an element of surprise as anybody from every section of the society can be recognized. Yesterday in Paro, we had civil servants, teachers, members of the clergy, friends of Bhutan and social workers, who were recognized.

The surprise this year, however, was the recognition of a small group of people who have contributed immensely to the country. In appreciating the service of the zopoens, a dozop, and a lhadip, and rewarding them with gold medals, His Majesty recognized a noble profession that many seem to overlook.

The wisdom was profound as this is a profession that is integral to what Bhutan stands for. Our unique culture that we readily boast off will not be what it is without the service of this group of people. The physical artefacts – the majestic dzongs, the intricate lhakhangs, the beautiful choetens of various shapes and sizes – stand tall and give us identity.

Yet our artisans – the painters, the sculptors, the carpenters are wrongly put at the bottom of the social structure. We often forget their contributions because they are not qualified when they are indeed the most qualified people. Someone once said that almost all the noblest things that have been achieved in the world, were achieved by poor men: poor scholars, poor artisans and artists, poor philosophers, poets and men of genius.

These are the people that matter to us. They give shape to our identity, meaning to our culture that is one of the pillars of Gross National Happiness. They have kept alive, for centuries, indigenous skills and crafts that were passed down by our forefathers. All of them haven taken part in building or renovating our national monuments. Recognizing them under the gaze of the Rinpung dzong at the Ugyen Pelri palace ground, His Majesty has reassured us that our age-old tradition and culture will flourish.

His Majesty spoke of the importance of the Zorig Chusum. This is timely as imported ideas and innovations are influencing us to believe that the old and the original is out-dated and unsophisticated. It is important because this is one area that is not receiving attention. Whether through budget allocation or in our grading structure it is not receiving the emphasis it deserves. Those who work for the government are in the lowest rung of the grading structure or position classification system.

Those who were recognized at Paro yesterday are in their twilight years. One of them in an earlier interview with Kuensel said his greatest worry was that his skills may die with him. This is more worrying for us as a nation.