The approach of a year end is usually time for a reflection of the past and new ideas for the times ahead. For Bhutan, this coincides with the National Day celebrations and, coincidentally, with the general election of the electoral cycle this year. There is a new feel to National Day 2023 with an unprecedented number of international guests and growing expectations among the Bhutanese population of the national transformation process.

The ceremonies and rituals of National Day acknowledge the significance of nationhood, identity, and what many of us refer to as the Bhutanese system. The Royal address on National Day is one of the most important events of the year, conveying national priorities and vision for the long term.

The reign of His Majesty began with Royal words which still echo today. “…Throughout my reign I will never rule you as a King. I will protect you as a parent, care for you as a brother, and serve you as a son…”

As the vision of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck unfolds, it defines a new era. The Royal addresses continue to document historic thoughts, events, advice and many an epic moment. Epitomising the changing times, His Majesty has announced personal events like the Royal wedding, introducing Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen, the birth of HRH The Gyalsey, and the names of the Royal children.

In recent years, we have sensed a new tone. Many of us have noted, often with more than a little impatience, the absence of follow up on the Royal advice. Over the years, we have become used to the trend that most people listen to the Royal address, get temporarily inspired, and then it remains a “good speech”. There is, often, no follow up, no implementation.

The Royal addresses have grown in urgency. They have culminated in specific commands and kashos (Royal decree). And it is with relief that we see governments responding.

Today, transformation of the nation has become a focus of the Royal addresses, the most recent Royal addresses highlighting significant new programmes. Bhutan is changing with initiatives like the desuung, gyalsung, education reform, government reform, economic reform.

The Covid-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to shift gear and move into a new chapter of nation building with fresh perspectives, ideas, and energy. The concept of chhoe-sid leadership came alive when the world was struck by crisis. As the catastrophe battered societies, derailed economies, and exacerbated national and international politics Bhutan saw the Monarch assume the role of protector. As the Coronavirus became a daunting test for today’s generation of world leaders Bhutan saw the power and reassuring comfort of compassionate leadership – uncompromised clarity of goals and sensitivity in abundance.

For Bhutan, Monarchy has always been a symbol of unity but, more than that, it is omnipresent as His Majesty traveled the length and breadth of the country, with no starting time or place and no arrival time or place. His Majesty meets the people whenever and wherever they are and shares his aspirations for the nation.

Even as we see a new era being crafted by the day, His Majesty’s formal address to the nation remains a historical documentation of change. On the eve of the 116th National Day, we look forward to the Royal address and the Royal vision.