My eldest nephew, the son of my second sister, delivered this Valedictory Address today during their graduation ceremonies with a theme: “A Partner Towards Transformational Society, An Answer to Societal Change.” Being the proud uncle, I could not help but be nervous about the whole thing. I even gave some thoughts and pointers about giving the speech. Here’s the full text of his speech:
Today, we are experiencing a milestone of our lives. Six years ago, when we started here, we were all young with inquisitive minds waiting to be molded into partners for societal change. Today, in a few minutes from now, we each shall march up this stage. Each one of us will receive a small, yet important, document attesting that we have successfully completed all the requirements after six years of hard work and studies. Today is not an end, it is a commencement.
For six years, our esteemed teachers and mentors, in close partnership with our beloved parents, taught us something new each day of school: about life, about our society, about each other, and about ourselves.
In science, we learned that life began small and somewhat insignificant at first. Through nature and nurture, we each became unique human beings, not anymore considered as girls and boys now, but young men and young women with a sense of duty and purpose.
In history, the 1986 People Power in EDSA taught us that we need not become dead heroes ourselves to defend our country against tyranny, dictatorship or corruption. Life is like a set of small interconnected problems that is now much easier to solve because we learned the rudiments of Mathematics. Addition and subtraction do not make us all math wizards, but the relationship between one and many made multiplication and division more concrete.
Friendships we forged with our classmates; contests and competitions we have endured; sports and games we have played, but we learned that a friendly competition, like mathematical addition, made each one of us stronger, faster and aimed higher. We have crossed all our T’s, dotted all our I’s, but more importantly, we learned that the word “TEAMWORK” does not contain the letter “I”. Teamwork, like multiplication, breeds camaraderie and fun.
As individuals, moreover, we learned the value of Values: to rely more in our faith in God rather than fate, to do what is right, to honor and respect our elders, to be fair and considerate to our less fortunate brethren, to be kind to animals, to care for and preserve the natural environment. Last but not the least, we all acquired a love for learning, and the value of hard work and perseverance.
Today is also a day for thank you’s. Someday, we shall look back to this particular day of our lives; and in retrospect, thank this great institution, especially our dear teachers and mentors: for teaching us the things that we have learned here in our Alma Mater; for equipping us with the right tools and appropriate implements to solve various problems; for training us with the right attitude in dealing with fellow human beings, and for preparing us with an optimistic, yet realistic, outlook in life.
If we have not done so lately, my dear classmates, we each should thank our beloved parents – and for some of us, our surrogate parents (grandparents or aunts or uncles, or elder siblings) – for all their sacrifices, great or small, for guiding us, for helping us in our studies, for simply being there when we need them or even when they need not. Let us tell them: “Thank you, Mom and Dad, Lolo and Lola, Aunt and Uncle, Kuya and Ate, for giving me tender, love and care unconditionally, for letting me be as I am, and for simply being there!”
Days from now, we all shall part ways. Many of us might become classmates again in high school; some might transfer to other institutions, but let us not forget the bonds we have created here among ourselves or between each other. Thus, we should also thank each of our school friends, and say: “I must not miss this chance to tell you now that I am so happy and so grateful I have met you, my friend. You are already a part of my reality.” Bonds might temporarily break, but promise each other that these bonds will reconnect. A nod or a smile to all our acquaintances might do for now, but this simple gesture will be more of an acknowledgment. It is also some sort of a silent pact to meet again.
We, as individuals, are not who what we have become today without them: our teachers and mentors, our parents and siblings, our far and near relatives, and our friends and acquaintances. I remember my uncle quoting to me this line:
Today is really not a simple end. It is but a commencement. A commencement to become a much even better human being than we were, or a much improved version as a person of our old selves. A commencement to become what each one of us would like to be. A commencement to be a small cog to positively transform the society we have grown accustomed to.
We might be small in stature, less in knowledge or life’s experiences, but in our own little ways, by employing what we all learned here in our Alma Matter and knowing now what we, as individuals, are capable and are able to do, we shall make a difference, first in our immediate community, someday in our society, and eventually in our world. This is not our promise, it is our challenge.
My nephew delivered his Valedictory Address flawlessly although seemingly out-of-breath, with flying colors, to say the least! I was so proud of him! Hopefully, he will excel in all his endeavours in the coming years. I know now that he will be fine, with a good mind and a good heart: he will be just fine and grow up as a young man with a good conscience. Keep up the good work and make us proud!
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