I am very happy and honored to congratulate all the graduating students of my dear Alma Mater, the Pampanga High School which I love very, very much. I mean it.
I am coming today as an alumnus. I have to say sorry for not coming earlier and more often. But the honor of your kind invitation has deeply humbled me and changed my life more than you will ever know. I thank all of you.
YOU, the graduates, are fortunate. For it is not every Filipino’s fortune to be in your shoes at this moment.
You have every reason to be grateful as well as to celebrate. For today is the first day of the rest of your life.
The future is yours for the taking. It is here and now. The choice is all yours…
But this is only the commencement of greater things. Take the journey, then, and move forward and upward. For the best is yet to come.
To all the parents who are here, please accept my warmest congratulations. The graduation of your children today is a convincing proof of your parental success. You are blessed and you deserve every blessing such as your children’s achievement.
Not all parents are as blessed. For parents may have all the money and the fame in the world, but if they fail to send their children to school, they have nothing left to be proud of. They would be like nice-looking boats on a dry land - empty and useless.
Parental encouragement, however, never ends with the graduation of our children. It can only begin, it should even improve. Thus, continue to look after the children. For they are your children forever.
Do not us them to make you rich. For God did not give us our children and make them instruments for our personal glory and aggrandizement. Only ask them to make their best choices.
Inspire the to live their own lives the right way. Their lives – including errors of judgment in the future – are their own.
The famous Lebanese-American philosopher, KHALIL GIBRAN – wrote as much about children and I quote:
Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters
Of life’s longing for life itself.
They may came through you
But not from you.
You may give them your love,
But not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies,
But not their soul.
For their souls rest
In the house of tomorrow
Which you can not visit
Not even in your dreams. (unquote)
To all the teachers goes my perpetual admiration and gratitude. Without teachers, there can never be leaders. Without leaders, there can be no Civil Society that is proud of the virtues of the many hostile to the vices of the few. Hold on to the fort / and keep the faith alive, anew, and afire.
If only to inspire our faculty, let me tell you of a certain Harvard professor by the name of George Herbert Palmer. All his life he preached but one principle: Teaching is more fully professional impelled by honorable rather than utilitarian motives. He once said that if Harvard did not pay him to teach, he would gladly pay Harvard for the privilege of teaching.
Having said that, may I now ask all the graduating students to show their gratitude to their parents and their teachers by means of a big roaring applause…
As I feel the euphoria of all these commencement exercises, I fell even more convinced that the real solution to poverty and destitution is a good education. Let me now contribute my mind to your beautiful commencement them, namely:
Education Towards A Strong Republic – Laying A Solid Foundation.
What is a Republic? In its simplest meaning, a republic is a state in which sovereignty resides in the people and that such people are entitled to vote for their leaders of choice who can represent them in government.
To be a citizen is to be sovereign. To be sovereign is first to be responsible. And to be responsible is to be educated.
Nobody disputes that our state is a republic. The citizens are sovereign and are entitled to service and protection by government. In fact, every three years, the sovereign citizens elect their own leaders. In May this year, we are again going to show to the world that we are a republic.
What has education to do with the creation and preservation of a strong republic?
Everything. Where masses of people suffer from ignorance, they can never enjoy the blessings and benefits of a strong republic. The superpower that is USA today is so, simply because, of the quality and quantity of its educated citizenry.
Have you ever pondered what actually happens to an educated citizen? It is not certain that he becomes wealthy and arrogant. But it is absolutely certain that he does not become poor and ignorant.
No child has an inalienable right to grow poor and without education. Thus, It is very inspiring that our President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given primacy to the eradication of poverty. And if we are to succeed, there is no better option left than to have a good education such as you are showing now.
I am voicing the immemorial wisdom and unsinkable optimism of the ages. There are good reasons. Let me explain.
At the end of the day, we have to realize we are children of one and the same generous Father in heaven. We could not have been created to become poor or remain helpless on earth. Because we are children of one and the same creative Father in heaven, we have every faculty to have everything we need on earth.
Let me hasten to add, however, the other part of this truth: While God has all the power to provide for all our needs, He has no power at all to satisfy anyone’s greed.
The majority of the 6 billion people in this world today are poor. The majority of the 84 million Filipinos today are poor. Some say the poor are poor because they are not born with rich parents. Others say the poor are poor because they are not entrepreneurial. Still some others say the poor are poor because they are not into illegal things.
Let me share some observations from my own personal experience. First, it is genetically impossible for everyone to be born with rich parents. Second, it is socially unlikely for everyone to be an entrepreneur. And third, nobody in his right senses would want to be rich by means of the fruits of violence and crime.
Yet, There is a way out from the empire of poverty. It is EMPLOYABLE FORMAL EDUCATION. Which is what you are getting now from your graduation. Education may not be everything; IT IS THE ONLY THING.
In fact, this is the central vision of our alma mater, which you and I must bring with us wherever you may go. It envisions this millennium as an era of networked education, where the whole country is composed of communities of scholars, intellectuals, technology researchers and innovators – whose combined capabilities and resources stand up to the more complex challenges of the new millennium.
In this age of globalization, he who has knowledge will never become poor. And he who has specialized knowledge, may even become wealthy. It is true that Bill Gates is not a product of high formal education. His is not the rule. He is the exception. Other mortals like us need education – and the highest education there is as much as possible.
And so I say again: The commencement is only the first step towards the highest mountain of your hopes and dreams. Your best graduation will be your own-initiated continuing professional education. For it must be true: The biggest room on earth was in the beginning, as it is now and ever shall be the room for self-improvement.
No less than the immortal Mark Twain expressed the same statement but only in a different fashion. He said and I quote:
There is nothing training can not do. Nothing is above its reach. It can turn bad morals to good. It can destroy bad principles and recreate good ones. It can even lift men and make the angels. (unquote)
There is one other law of life that I have learned and which I re-discovered in my life. It has everything to do with biblical wisdom. It is the Law of the Harvest.
The law is very simple that sometimes we miss the whole point: What you sow, you reap. The law is universal, inexorable, immutable and admits no exception.
The Law of the Harvest prescribes that every doer shall receive the exact result or reward of his actions. Your graduation is the exact reward of all your struggles in the last so many years of your academic life. Philosophers call the law as cause and effect. Physicists refer to it as the law of equilibrium. Among law and criminology graduates, it is known as justice – to each his own due. It is, in fact, the decisive principle of right and wrong.
Applying the Law of the Harvest, let me now say something on leadership. In school, your duty is to learn. In your work and profession, your mission is to lead. To live is to lead.
In the PNPA, the premier school of Public Safety Officers its motto is: Learn Today And Lead Tomorrow.
To be a leader is first to have a good and strong character. This requires the moral courage to do what is right. The saying is right: If you lose your health, you lose something. But when you lose your character, you lose everything.
To be a leader means also to do things right. You need experience to be capable. Competence is not a product of chance or accident.
With character and competence, you are now prepared to lead. And if you lead, you are sure to know what to live is all about.
Your point of power is NOW – this Year 2004. It is a year of challenges, choices, and changes. And talking about change, let me share with you my favorite story.
When I was young and the world was under the control of my imagination that knew neither fear nor limits, I wanted to change the world. But sadly, the world refused to change. It remained immovable.
Then I grew older and even wiser. And I narrowed down my vision and wanted to change only my country. But sadly, my country refused to change. It also remained immovable.
As I approached the twilight of my life, I narrowed down my vision even further. I just wanted to change the attitude of my family, which was sinking in pessimism and despair. But sadly, even my family refused to change. It simply remained immovable.
Now – as I lie on my deathbed with only a few hours to live – I realize that if I had only changed MYSELF first, then perhaps I would have been able to change the negative attitude of my family…With a renewed family. Then I would have been able to make my country a better country…And, who knows, I may even have been able to make this world a better place, a safer place, a happier place to live in.
Once more, Congratulations to all the graduates, all the parents, and all the teachers and staff of this great institution of learning – my very own Alma Mater.
Thank you very much!