Image courtesy of Margaret Wilonsky as posted in Forbes.Com
Today I opened my social media account and the attached memo above was the very first thing I saw. I have heard about John F. Kennedy, his wife, and the circumstances of his death. I have always been intrigued by what triggered their family’s popularity, and why many Americans regard JFK as the best President of all time. But you see, I am of the last generation to grow up without the internet. My only way of researching then was through physical books and the encyclopaedias which related only the broad details. I could only go so far.
Reading this memo, however, gave me new insights. JFK became a real person for me, and coupled with a short research about his life, I gained a glimpse of how people may have reacted after his death. I can imagine the panic America may have been feeling at the time, pitched in the middle of an international crisis (the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis), an impending social change (the end of racial segregation in schools), and the death of a beloved president. JFK represented hope for many Americans, and his administration offered change – a possibility for peace and equality, a resurgence of hope for the greatness America can become. No wonder many Americans grieved for his death. By JFK’s death came the death of their own dreams, of the wonderful possibilities of their future. With this backdrop, I can appreciate better how those people from Dallas County Hospital District acted. How their fortitude may have brought America to an entirely new level of existence. In a society that dreams of comfort and ease, these men and women showed not only grace under pressure, but also the importance of seeking to better one’s self in order to emerge victorious in adversities.
But this article is not about the American people and JFK. It is about us Filipinos and our outlook for the future. The memo was just a jump-off for an important point: like Americans of the November 54 years ago, we Filipinos are also facing a crisis.
When our new president was elected, many Filipinos believed that change was sure to come. There was rejoicing in the streets of Manila on the day his victory was announced. I know this because I was there in the streets, observing the driver wearing slippers and sando, giving free rides to his “friends” wearing the red and blue bracelet. I was there when the lady from the sari-sari store was happily announcing that a new era has come. But a year has passed, and the story is changing. The victory so celebrated just over a year ago is now the bane of many families, especially those who experienced the effect of the war on drugs. But haven’t you noticed? No one is complaining that they have been deceived by this President’s promises. From the beginning he has always been pretty frank, promising to kill drug addicts, ensuring that his character will never change, but we still chose him to become the President. What change were we expecting then?
In his inaugural speech, President Duterte said, “The change, if it is to be permanent and significant, must start with us and in us”. In his first State of the Nation Address, he also said, “…the Filipino, disciplined, informed, and involved, shall rise from the rubbles of sorrow and pain.”
At this point, I do not wish to debate on the underlying meaning of these words, because there will be no end to that. But as a Filipino, and as someone who has been working for the betterment of our society, I take these words in a different way. For me, it meant that in order for the Filipino to rise from the “rubbles of sorrow and pain”, and to experience a “permanent and significant” change, we cannot rely on just the President and this government to make the change. We, the people, have to change. We have to be the change we want to see in the world.
Our government is a pretty hardened system. The rules are already very stringent and change is not very easy to implement. But one of the developments the government has adopted is that there is room for the voice of the people. There is a recognition that the government can only initiate that which is desirable for its citizens. But do we know what we want? Do we understand how our personal desires can lead to either a prosperous or a bleak future for our country?
Change is sure to come, not because the President says so, but because the entire world is truly at a precipice, what with climate change, new knowledge being uncovered, and the latest technologies being built. We will experience a profound change in a much greater degree experienced by the men and women of Dallas County Hospital. Are we ready for it, or will we be drowned by the incoming tide?
“What is it that enables an institution to take in stride such a series of history jolting events? Spirit? Dedication? Preparedness? Certainly, all of these are important, but the underlying factor is people. People whose education and training is sound. People whose judgement is calm and perceptive. People whose actions are deliberate and definitive. Our pride is not that we were swept up by the whirlwind of tragic history, but that when we were, we were not found wanting.”
Truly the task for us, the generation of today, is great, but only because our capacities are of the same level. All the tools we need to address our personal and societal concerns are within our reach. We only need to understand what brought about these concerns, what sort of tools are available for us, and how such tools can be used to change our realities.
In the next few days (weeks, month, and hopefully, years!), we hope you can join us in the journey of understanding – first, of who you are as a human being, second, of the science of how dreams come true, and ultimately, of the need for transforming these personal desires into something much bigger – something so big it can change the direction of the Philippines and the world!