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April 7, 2014

To Change, To Not Change and Knowing The Difference: Graduation Speech

I had the privilege of being invited as guest speaker during the transition rites of the Grade 6 students of the University of Saint La Salle. Here's the transcript of the speech I gave to the students, their parents and teachers:

"Exactly 20 years ago, I found myself in the same position as you are now fellow Lasallians. I found myself leaving the elementary campus and moving up to first year High School. I cannot anymore remember my exact thoughts during that moment, but what I can never forget is that feeling of excitement. I was moving up. I was becoming a teenager. I was becoming a high      school student. Moving up meant that I have  accomplished the first few phases of life and that I was ready to face yet another phase. Becoming a teenager meant facing a whole new adventure in exploring new occurrences in friendships and relationships. Becoming a high school student meant transforming into a more mature person. 

20 years ago, I was going through the same experience you are going through today: Change. 

It was without a doubt that moving forward required changes in so many aspects of my life. It meant  a change in environment, a new location for our classrooms separate and quite distant from the ones we had during our elementary years. It meant a change in teachers and adapting to new teaching  styles which in most cases may be contrary to one's learning style. It meant a change in uniforms from brown khaki pants to smooth ebony slacks. It meant a change in hang outs, time schedules, a change in clubs and organizations. Perhaps at one point it also meant a change in choice of friends.   Personally, it also meant a change in interest. I remember that when I was in grade 6 I wanted to be an astronaut, until I met my biology teacher during 2nd year high school whose passion for the science inspired me to pursue Biology as my premed course. 

Changes can be scary. Changes can also be exciting. An individual going through change certainly encounters mixed emotions. I can only imagine the sentiments of your parents today who are like you going through the same phase of change. It is so dynamic that the outcomes may not be those which you initially expected. You can predict most of them but their certainty is never guaranteed. When faced with the possibility of change, what you can do is only prepare for it. To change is the natural course of life. 

However, there are a few things in life that don't undergo changes  at least not as fast and obvious as the ones I previously mentioned. For one, my allowance did not change. My best of friends never changed. My best friends since elementary remain to be my best friends until now.

More importantly, values have not changed. They have only been deepened and tested but they have remained the same in form and in substance. My experiences in elementary under the formation given me by my teachers and parents, helped formed those values. My Lasallian education taught me that I am not disconnected from the world where I live in, that a Lasallian is not an isolate, he or she interacts with his or her environment because he or she is part of a community, and whatever he or she does has an impact on his or her community. But this interaction, this connection, is not an aimless linkage. It is not similar to any social network like Facebook or Twitter. This connection is purposive. It is focused. It has a meaningful purpose: for a Lasallian is bound for service. A Lasallian is made to serve others. Even in his or her pursuit for excellence, a Lasallian is reminded of his or her purpose. Even in his or her desire for competence, he or she is reminded of compassion. Excellence with a soul, competence with compassion. Those are the words that remind us, every Lasallian, of who we are and what we can contribute in this world. But a Lasallian can only serve, and his or her purpose of serving others, can only be fulfilled because a Lasallian is a Person of Faith. Only a Man or Woman of Faith can find enough energy, enough passion, enough determination, to serve and immerse in a community riddled with challenges, aching to be transformed.

So it is with these three words, three attributes  that we grow: faith, service, community. Three values  that should never change. Three values that remind us of our calling. That we are agents of change. It is our mission. It is our commission. To change the world is the calling of every Lasallian. 

So, as you transition into another phase of your life here in Lasalle, relish in the experience of growing up. Deepen your understanding of your own values, the values your parents taught you.  Always remind yourself that it is not enough to finish with flying colors, to academically excel. My fellow lasallians, to do so is only a means to an end. Your calling is not to finish elementary and eventually high school or even college with academic excellence. Your calling is out there. Out in the world. To transform your communities. To transform your families. To transform the nation. You are already old enough to realize that our country needs more servant leaders grounded on strong faith and guided by a sense of community and nation building.  

Therefore, my fellow parents, let us not fail to instill in our children the love for God and country. And as they begin their next few steps closer to their own dreams, always remind them that their dreams only find meaning if they are selfless and less self serving. Someone one said that there are two things we can give our children, one is roots  the other is wings. The latter is much harder to give.

To my fellow teachers, especially to my own former teachers, let us never grow tired of teaching. Never give up on any one of them. I am a testament to your endurance and patience. If you my teachers have given up on me, I would never have become a doctor. If I did not become a doctor, i would never have worked in a far flung municipality and served their community for more than 2 years, helping them improve their health systems and helping them realize the value of life and health. A prayer by archbishop Oscar Romero echoes the very words relevant to you my dear teachers, " we plant the seeds that one day will grow, we water the seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We may not see the end results of our work but that is the difference between the workers and the Master. Builder. We are workers and not the master builder.  Ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a  future not our own."

And to you my fellow Lasallian students, let us not waiver in our response to our own calling and mission. Let us look forward to this moment of change that will eventually transform us into agents of change. Do not fear growing up. Do not let growing up distract you from your mission. And wherever you are led by your own dreams, whatever you choose, never forget the Lasallian prayer that has always reminded me as well of who we are and why we do what we do: "I will continue  o my God, to do all my actions All for the Love of You." 

Live Jesus in our Hearts, forever."

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