The Importance of Mission and Service

17 April 2009

Address of Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
43rd Commencement Exercises
Perpetual Help College of Manila
17 April 2009

Mr. Tamayo,
Dean Gablan,
Parents and Teachers,
Members of the Graduating Class of 2009:

Thank you for asking me to be part of this celebration that exalts both the noble adventure of education and the drama of passage of our young graduates.

To Mr. Tamayo and the faculty, I offer my salute for the impressive feat of nurturing -- by today’s count -- 43 graduating classes in this distinguished institution of learning for over four decades. That is fruit indeed of vision and dedication.

To our graduates today, I extend my sincere congratulations – and some words of counsel as you go out into the world.

Whenever I go to a speaking engagement, my wife reminds me of a sly Portuguese saying: “Visits always give pleasure – if not in the arrival, in the departure.”

Strive, she said, to make them regret to see you depart. That begins with the length of your speech. I shall therefore be brief in my remarks.

Not a Job but a Mission

Of the many counsels and lessons I have learned in my life, the one I never forgot was this gem from a college professor:

After graduation, you will have to choose whether you want to go to a job or go on a mission. You go to a job because you have to. You go on a mission because you want to.

Too often, many of us think of our choices mainly in terms of the jobs we are able to land. Yet what really matters is being able to do work that we really enjoy and believe in.

If you see your work or job as a mission, it can be fulfilling and exhilarating. You feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself. And there is the chance that you can become really good at what you do.

So don’t grab the first job offer that comes along. Make sure that it’s really what you want to do. Don’t think of just your pay envelope – think of the mission you will be accomplishing.

Positive Thinking

The second thought that I want to leave with you is the great importance of having a positive outlook in life.

Presented with a glass 50% of which is filled with water, one person will say it is half-full, while another will say it is half-empty.

You’ll be surprised at how much this seemingly small difference in perspective can impact so greatly the choices we make and the persons we eventually become.

If one is negative and defeatist, every problem looks insoluble and everything leads to a deadend.

On the other hand, if you have a sunny and positive disposition, problems are of no moment. Energy of will can take you where you want to go.

I know that there is so much to complain about in our country – from the traffic to government corruption to tiresome politicians to garbage collection, and so on.

But if you look hard enough, you will also see so much to cheer about – beginning with the resourcefulness of our people and the remarkable resiliency of our economy today amidst the global recession.

The point is that negativism and cynicism is a deadend. It accomplishes nothing. While positivism opens the possibility of change even in the midst of difficulty.

I think this is generally true of the attitudes of young Filipinos today. Where the older generations are inclined to say that something cannot be done, young people say readily, “Yes, we can.”

This positive outlook, this sense of empowerment is part and parcel of the age of change we live in.

It is a byproduct of the Internet – the most important invention in over a century which is transforming the way we live.

Costs of Nationhood

Third, I urge you not to forget that you are part of a nation of 92 million people – which is the 13th largest in the world.

Sometimes, it may seem as if our country exacts of us too many sacrifices. That being Filipino is a burden.

I will remind you of what Pope John Paul II told his Polish countrymen on the eve of their liberation from communism:

“I feel responsible for this great common inheritance whose name is Poland. This name defines us all…This name costs us all…Perhaps at times we envy the French, the Germans or the Americans because their name is not tied to such a historical price…while ours costs so much.

“My dear friends, I will not make a comparative analysis. I will only say that it is what costs that constitutes value…We do not want a Poland that costs us nothing.”

Neither I believe do we Filipinos want a Philippines that costs us nothing!

One measure of this is the way some 10 to 12 million of our people toil abroad to sustain their families back home and help in shoring up the national economy.

Another measure is how the 61 million Filipinos who are of working age – from 15 to 64 – are giving an unprecedented level of economic vitality today through their labor.

A New Decade

I believe that the new decade on the horizon will be a time of opportunity and challenge for our country. And we will grow and prosper depending on how far we are willing to take the challenge of development.

The politics of the past will not do for the challenges of today. We cannot answer today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.

Our problems in infrastructure, corruption, inefficiency, slum communities, local governance – all can be solved if we apply ourselves to the tasks, and not to just talking about them.

In business management this is elementary because you cannot blame your competition for your problems. You either solve them or you perish.

Young graduates are oriented to this attitude to problem-solving. And if your generation will embrace this as your mission, I believe that our country and our people will be able to grow out of poverty.

This was how it was 114 years ago when our nation was born of the vision and struggles of young men and women like Rizal, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo and Mabini. The heroes of our awakening to independence were only in their 20s, sometimes no more old than you. Yet they gave shape to the Filipino nation and our destiny as a people.

Today, in this new time of challenge and opportunity, your energy, your fearlessness, and your imagination – combined with those of old generations -- are similarly vital to the tasks of national transformation and modernization.

Let me end with a quote from a president who personified great energy and imagination in office. He wrote:
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with a strong and active faith.”

The man was the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was bound to a wheelchair when he accomplished his great deeds in office. He died the same day he wrote those words 62 years ago.

Congratulations once again to all of you. I wish you every success in the missions that you will embrace.