A baccalaureate: Graduating class of 2019 Piton Global

A baccalaureate: Graduating class of 2019 Featured

IN the Philippines, March marks the end of the school year and the start of summer break. For the college graduates, this interim is the last fling before getting on with the serious business of landing a job. For some, those who have not decided what to do with their lives, they continue with schooling. Postgraduate is an option; law, a master’s course or a shift to other courses, prolonging a juvenile life they can’t leave behind.

A diploma is a precious key to open doors of opportunities. Particularly for the poor, it is the culmination of parental sacrifice to escape to a better life through their children, but for many, only vicariously. Peculiar to a Filipino family, it is a filial duty.

March is also the time for commencement exercises where speakers regale the graduates with worn-out anecdotes and dispensing advice for the graduates’ transition to real life from the safe confines of a classroom.

I have never been invited by any notable university to be a commencement speaker. So, this article will be my standard commencement speech to the graduating class of 2019.

Dear graduating class of 2019: First my credentials. I am what is known in literature as the Allegorical Everyman. I am an ordinary person. I finished high school at a seminary where tuition was free in a class of a dozen, ‘sine laude’ (without honors), although I excelled in Latin and could orate segments of Marcus Tullius Cicero’s perorations against Catiline’s conspiracy “Quo usqui tandem abutere Catilina patientia nostra?” (When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience?) But that was half a century ago.

My college baccalaureate was geared towards teaching which I did not pursue. I did public service instead and after some years, I was fortunate to be accepted at Harvard, for my postgraduate MC/MPA at the Kennedy School. I was voted upon graduation as the top Mason Fellow by my classmates. It was a leadership award, not academic.

Three other Filipinos were in my class: Alejandro ‘Babes’ Flores (PC-INP), Dr. Primo Arambulo, (UN-PAHO) and Christopher Gomez, Central Bank (CB). Yes, it is prudent to cite real witnesses on your having graduated from a prestigious school, unlike some current high government officials’ dubious claims of having finished law and college degrees from UP, Yale or Princeton, or whatever.

Having established my credentials, you graduates will soon establish yours. On May 13, 2019, you get to choose for the first time the ruling elite of this country – senators, congressmen and local government officials. For those of you who are not lazy, concerned or even patriotic enough to register and vote, this is an opportunity for you to practice what you learned in your civics class. As you will begin to realize, our system of government which is nominally a republican democracy allows its citizens to elect leaders mandated to serve the people; who must fashion good laws and hammer out policies to make our lives better. Election day is the only time that your power to alter the course of government rests in your hands. After this one-day exercise, you are powerless.

Many of you are average or above-average students, like I was. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe a good 10 perecent of you are academically part of the crème-de-la-crème, cum laudes, magna and summa cum laudes. Nothing wrong with that too.

In this day and age, your many advantages over the youth of two decades ago and beyond are apparent. You are the children of the information age. The network of networks, the world wide web spawned this period through the development of the internet. Facebook, Google, Apple and internet applications through your cellphone and notebooks are your primary tools. Use them well.

With these devices, data mining is at your fingertips. You have access to quick information. This makes you smarter than a lot of us, but not necessarily wiser. To be the latter, I give you my first advice; you need to apply critical thinking you learned in school, unlike the term papers you sourced out from Wikipedia that you cut and paste. You need to use your brains to separate the chaff from the grain.

You need to discern from among the list of names offered by the political puppet masters, candidates you can trust and depend on to do good by you. Many of them are good candidates; but also, many of them are crooks and corrupt, who should not be given another chance to rule over us. Eliminate the members of political dynasties and name brands who keep being elected every three years yet serve only their personal interest or that of their families instead of your welfare and the greater majority of our people.

Remember the people you are voting to ride herd on you now were once like you; believing in the oft repeated romantic notion that the “…youth is the hope of the fatherland.” Not true, it’s overrated — given their track record over the decades.

And with these tools, communication between and among your peers are instantaneous; Facebook gives you friends, hundreds, thousands even but such relationships although not deep are sufficient enough for information to disseminate. But beware of fake news and rumors.

My second advice is to allow yourselves to get angry. Real anger over our situation of decades of government neglect, of stark poverty and injustice besetting our people. Righteous indignation is required to spur us to condemn and correct the imbalances and deficits of our democracy — in our court system, in our dysfunctional institutions, in the continued institutional thievery in the Senate and Congress through pork barrel allocations, resulting in the general malaise pervading our system of government.

And I want to leave you with these thoughts that define who you really are: You are the mainstream, the world’s movers. History’s great dramas are mostly written by ordinary people. You need to internalize this fact. This is not to disparage the academic achievers among you. They have achieved excellence worth emulating. But you are all now in the real world. You all start on equal footing; and it requires a conscious decision by each one of you to make a difference.

Continue to possess the arrogance of youth, that you are the center of the universe and that you have the capability of changing the world. Because, it is true, you are. And this is a myth you have to perpetuate, as long as you can. It ends when you are no longer the youth.

But this arrogance is preconditioned on your understanding right from wrong and acting accordingly. These are values learned from, or inculcated by, parents, the elders, your peer group and the educational system. The result of this life’s test is simply pass or fail, no ‘cum laudes.’ If you are unable to distinguish the difference, you are a failure.

So, my dear graduates of 2019, we are all ordinary people, capable of extraordinary things.000
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