To build the Nation is to Empower the Youth

(Speech delivered as keynote speaker in the Inter-collegiate Debate 2011, 2nd Social Science Day with the theme, “Building the Nation through Youth Empowerment” on March 4, 2011 at Ramon Magsaysay Technological University – San Marcelino Campus.)

Danilo V. Rogayan Jr.

To our highly-esteemed Acting Chancellor, Dr. Emma C. Ventura, to the very supportive Vice Chancellor and Director for Instruction, Prof. Benjamin R. Capistrano, our well-respected deans of various colleges, the very humble dean of the College of Education, Dr. Nestor Z. Rondina, the very accommodating dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Beverly I. Agustin, the very energetic dean of the College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, Prof. Nora A. Alcayaga and the very workaholic dean of the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Prof. Anita A. Fabro, to the ever helpful principal of the Laboratory High School, Prof. Marietta S. Romera, our highly-competent faculty, fellow students, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a youthful morning!

I am indeed very overwhelmed at this point in time as I step in this podium and give my speech before you today as the event speaker of this year’s Inter-Collegiate Debate 2011 in line with the celebration of the 2nd Social Science Day hosted by no less than the Social Science Institute of RMTU / RMTU Debating Society. At first, when I was invited to render a talk for this event, I had a second thought whether to accept it or not. I had many reasons in mind but at the end, I accepted it. Leaders take risks and challenges. So I did.

Ladies and gentlemen, I never imagined myself talking here not as the usual master of ceremony like I used to be, but as the speaker of this momentous event. It’s really a great honor for me and I hope I could share something worthwhile that could benefit each one of you.

I would like to start my discourse with a short story.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

 

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

 

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

 

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

 

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

 

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

 

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do not you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

 

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”

My friends, the story tells about the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others and in marking substantial changes in the community where we belong. We are being reminded by the story that we are not alone; there are so many people that would help and guide us as we make our dreams and fulfill our visions.

Today, we are faced with a lot of struggles, societal upheavals are everywhere. In the words of Thomas Paine, these are the times that try men’s souls. Sometimes we feel very alone, we feel small and unable to make lasting changes just like in the situation we are in today. And we ended up by saying, “What can I do that will make a difference?” or “What can one small person like me can do?”

In reality, we don’t have to be rich, talented or even particularly intelligent to make a difference in the life of others and in our community. We just need to be reminded that we are all here for a purpose. God has created each one of us to make something beneficial to this world. And that making small changes in the world will eventually add up to something bigger in the life of another.

When we become throwers of a starfish, we too, have the power to change the world, to change our country and build this nation.

The story also bespeaks our today’s event theme, “Building the Nation through Youth Empowerment.” The theme is very timely as the United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2011 as the International Year of the Youth. This is an effort to harness the energy, imagination and initiative of us, the world’s youth in overcoming the challenges facing humankind, from enhancing peace to boosting economic development. This likewise aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity.

We are being encouraged to dedicate ourselves to fostering progress, including the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to slash a host of social ills, ranging from extreme poverty and hunger to maternal and infant mortality to lack of access to education and health care, all by 2015.

These things seem to be complicated and difficult to accomplish, but if each one of us here will start to respond to our social responsibility and will start to throw our starfishes, for sure, little by little, we will be able to attain these goals. We don’t need to pressure ourselves in resolving issues like insurgency, terrorism and political chaos just like what are happening today, we just need to start at the very basic. Let us do little things that we can that would surely contribute much in resolving bigger dilemmas.

We are the youth, in other words, we are the hope of this land. Naitanong na ba ninyo sa inyong mga sarili, paano kaya ako magiging pag-asa ng ating bayan? Paano ko patutunayan na ako’y karapat-dapat sa tinuran ni Rizal? These questions are quite complex yet very easy to answer. The answers shall not be uttered into words but shall be translated into actions. We, the youth, play a very pivotal role in building this nation, but the question is how? There is only one simple answer and that is… we should be empowered.

Youth empowerment, as defined, is an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability, authority, and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people, including youth and adults. It is often addressed as a gateway to intergenerational equity, civic engagement and democracy building.

Out of this context I have formulated ten key points of what youth empowerment is all about. And I came up with the following, youth empowerment is about knowing ourselves, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, knowing our gifts, talents and skills, making sound decisions, improving our areas of development, making positive impact to the lives of others, encouraging equality and peace, responding to our social responsibility, leading our fellow youth and building the nation.

Knowing ourselves.

As Lao-Tzu once said, “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” We should begin by knowing ourselves so well, in that way, we will be able to get acquainted of who we really are and what really can we do. We have to push ourselves to the limits and get out of our comfort zone. In my Ayala Young Leaders Congress or AYLC experience in Tagaytay, I came to know myself very well. I discovered a lot of things which I never imagined I could do. I found myself traversing in a cable wire and jumping 40-feet above the ground. That’s scary really, but I didn’t give up, I pushed my limit and I am proud I finished the challenge. We just have to trust ourselves, trust people around us and enhance our self-confidence, not too little and not too much. Likewise, we shall first learn how to lead ourselves before we can lead others.

Knowing our strengths and weaknesses

Next is knowing our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes we tend to see only our strengths, we do not consider our weaknesses and try to hide these. But that’s not a good perception to develop, we should know how to recognize what can and what we can’t do and the good and not so good things we have. In my personal experience, I love soliciting people’s feedback and impression of my strong and weak points. This helped me a lot to be better-rounded individual. We just need to accept the feedback not as a destructive criticism but as an advice for development. We also try to reflect a moment a day of what we really have, either good or bad. In that way, we will be able to develop our strengths and improve our weak points.

Knowing our gifts, talents and skills

Another key point of youth empowerment is knowing our gifts, talents and skills. What really can we give? What talents and skills we have? What special gifts we possess? Try to know all these things not to broadcast these to others but to make use of these in making positive difference in ourselves and in our community. I love sharing my talents and skills to others. I do lecturing to young people about writing, about campus journalism, leadership and even about my experiences. I use my skill in communication in talking to authorities about dealing significant issues in our community and use this to voice out my convictions and advocacies. I also encourage you here to make use of your gifts properly and not to hide it for this little thing will also help in making a change in this world.

Making sound decisions

Empowered youth should also be sound decision makers. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Sound decisions require weighing things out. Learn to see the positive and negative sides of the matter. Don’t be too reactive, be cautious in making decisions and be ready for its consequences, good or bad it may be. I have made several decisions in my life. I even thought of quitting school when I was in second year College. That time, I was really pressured about my community works. But I contemplated and asked myself, “I decided to be in public service even beforehand I know I am a student, why do I need now to sacrifice my studies over the other?” So I ended up, saving my public service and my studies. I stood up on my decision, and I was able to balance the two. Sometimes, decisions will be tested with trials, we just have to be firm and strong, if we succeed, we decided positively, if otherwise, let us learn from that mistake.

Improving our areas of development

Another key point in youth empowerment is improving our areas of development. After knowing ourselves, knowing our weaknesses, let us not stop on that. We should know how to improve these areas, learn to face our fears, conquer our weaknesses and change our not so good habits. If not improved, theses areas will just hinder us in achieving our dreams and aspirations in life. Just like what I do, I do a self-reflection once in a while, talk to people, do some sharing and ask suggestions on how I can improve myself into better person. We just need to be open with suggestions, and select the best to apply for our own betterment.

Making positive impact to the lives of others

Youth empowerment also means making positive impact to the lives of others. At our age now, have we already made positive impact to the lives of others? Are we striving to make people think positive thoughts? If we truly want to make an impact to the lives of others, then at some point we are going to need to become an influencer, and that means we are going to need to be someone that others look up to and respect. I am just an ordinary youth like you, and I’m glad that in my own little way, I have influenced people through talking to them, sharing my stories, my experiences, giving them pieces of advice and have created positive impacts to their lives through rendering a help and doing their little favors. These things that I do are just some of the little ways of making positive impact to the lives of others. I remembered one question and I would like to leave you this to reflect on, “How do you like to be remembered?”

Encouraging equality and peace

Another key point in youth empowerment is encouraging equality and peace. Let us be an agent of equality and peace in our own little ways as youth. We don’t have to be soldiers and policemen in order to contribute our part in attaining peace and equality, we just have to do little things that we know could help in attaining these. Last February 27, I joined the People Power Run – Zambales Run for Peace held at Iba, Zambales, I, together with other youth, PNP and AFP, government and non-government officials ran several kilometers and expressed our commitment in building peace in our respective communities in our very own way. Today, I encourage you also to take your part in building peace in your communities.

Responding to our social responsibility

Youth empowerment is also responding to our social responsibility. We are not just here to live for our own good, we are here to make a difference. We have mission to pursue for others and for our community. In 2007, I was elected as SK Chairperson and at the same time serve as Ex-Officio Member of the Sangguniang Barangay. That point in time, I have started to respond to my social responsibility, helping my fellow youth and fellow barrio people, implementing programs and projects beneficial to the citizenry and crafting ordinances which I believe will help the community in some ways. I also volunteer for PPCRV, guarding the sanctity of votes of my fellows as a election watcher especially in the last May 10 elections. I advocate for anti-child abuse and anti-women abuse being part of our advocacies in PREDA Foundation – AKBAY Youth Organization. These are some of my little ways in responding to my social responsibility which I believe yet will create a big difference in the society where I am now. Now, how about you, what are you going to do? How are you going to respond to your social responsibility? Let us not live only for ourselves, let us live for others. Share what we can share. Get involve and empower ourselves to do significant endeavors for our communities.

Leading our fellow youth

As youth, we should also know how to lead our fellow youth. Leadership is about people working together with a shared purpose that brings about change. We, as youth, are emerging leaders of our time. Let us make a difference and help create a better nation. I have been into leadership since elementary, I held a lot of leadership positions and until now, I am engaged into leadership stuff, leading others. But I have realized one thing; the truest achievement of a true leader is to make another leader. Many people are asking me, why you have to sacrifice your time as a leader, in community or even in the academe. And I answered, “who will lead then? It’s my time to lead so I will.” My friends, I together with my batchmates will soon be leaving the campus that’s why I want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to get involved, to take your part and be into leadership. There are lots of campus organizations wherein you can be part of. Unleash your leadership potentials, enhance your commitment and lead your fellow youth. This is your time so please respond to your responsibility.

Building the Nation

Last key point in youth empowerment is building the nation. How are we going to build the nation, let us just be empowered. Do simple things that will make a change. Let us throw our starfishes with passion, commitment and sense of responsibility.

My friends, the task of transforming and building our nation into better one is not an easy task. But just like what the AYLC Theme Song says, “It’s time for us to make a stand, we can make it hand in hand. It’s time for us to answer to the call. Call of the nation in building her in our very own ways.

At this juncture, I would like to express my profound gratitude and appreciation, first to my SSIR RDS Adviser, Mr. Eric DS Ebro for the trust and encouragement. To the administration headed by Dr. Emma Ventura for the support being given to organizational endeavors like this. To my mentors who have contributed to my success as a youth leader and a better individual. To my friends and classmates for the usual support and love. And to of you, my schoolmates, who serve as my inspiration to serve more, to give more what can I do and to unleash more my potentials.

Thank you so much and mabuhay tayong lahat!

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