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Updated on April 29, 2012

Good Gifts on Graduation Day

Today, I would like to share one very precious speech I prepared for my Alma Mater in high school because on her 101st year as an educational institution and on her 81st Commencement Exercises last March 31, 2012, I had become her 81st Commencement Speaker. I was deeply honored to honor the invitation and the inspiration that my presence could bring to the graduates, my teachers and to the whole institution. I take pride in sharing this with you. Thank you so much.

Every day, and in more or less 200 days in a school year, a student wakes up early in the morning to prepare himself to face a variety of learning experiences provided by the teachers in school.

In the same number of days, that student arms himself with courage and confidence in a nightful of preparations based on the assignments given him by committed teachers who give utmost care and focus on the learning activities basically to develop fundamental skills for learning, to face each of his classes and teachers to exercise the muscles of thoughts and values, of skills and attitude, for lifelong learning. 

In the same number of days, that student becomes whole as he finds meanings in the experiences offered in the school, in the home and his life in the community.

The student I am refering to is graduating. That student pays great importance to his being in the present, and his becoming in the future. He makes clear his values for life is not just an exercise of the competencies acquired through the years spent in school, but of the values caught in the course of life.

He builds confidence in his abilities and values to prepare for bigger roles in life, in his family and in his immediate community and society. He allows himself to be shaped and influenced by the many realities of life to prepare for various and vicarious experiences life in the family and life in the community can offer.

In such context, the preparation has become a gift to himself. The process has become an anvil of growth and development. And to this moment, the person who has gone through the process of preparation is emerging to be ready to face the challenges and changes of a new tomorrow, and of many tomorrows.

That person is a gift to himself. That person is in you.

For and within the same days, the person who now embodies a gift to himself carries with great sense of awareness, responsibility and ownership the roles that he understands belong to him, he acts on them with utmost care and confidence, he pursues and delivers the plans with wit and with passion because he believes that he can make a difference not just in his person, but also in his family and in the community where he grows.

This very moment, that person in you has received the gift of graduation. Graduation generally means to me as a summary of the good things that happen in my school life.

Good because if I learned in Science that simple and complex problems can be solved scientifically, I could cultivate and prolong life by helping maintain a clean and green environment. I would prevent flood by not pollluting the air, rivers and seas. I would plant trees, more trees to prevent global warming. By then I could be kinder to myself and others, I could save the lives of human beings, of flora and fauna. I will be a good steward of the Earth. Then I am a gift to Mother Earth.

If I say I have l learned the value of nationalism and heroism in Araling Panlipunan or History or Social Studies, I would do voluntary service for my neighbors, especially on emergency cases and catastrophic eventualities. I would serve selflessly at whatever cost. I would live a hero’s life.

I would follow school rules and regulations. I would be law abiding. I would respect the rights of the persons with disability. I have to recognize that special children like Budoy have dreams, too, and have to receive the gift of education.

If I say I value language and communication, then I would be an agent of peace and order in my own family. I would settle conflicts with my brothers and sisters. I would appreciate more the good things I find in them. That way, I am a brother to my brother, a brother’s keeper.

I would be a responsible user of my cellphone and internet, of twitter and facebook. I would not engage in gambling in the internet and waste my parents’ resources there. I would go home early to meet my siblings because I value relationships and harmony.

If I value Math, I would become systematic in my actions, I would give accurate reports. I would put things in order. I would prioritize my needs. I would finish my studies, I would become a good person. And tomorrow, I will wear a new name, I will either be Engr. Don Balderas or Dr. Don Balderas.

If then I value creativity, resourcefulness and good work attitude, I would not do vandals and grafittis. I would repair my own cellphone and our house’s defective electrical wirings, I would prevent fire and life hazards. I would wear helmet in driving a motorcycle. I would prepare nutritious food for my family. I would turn trash into cash. I would do small wonders by being inventive and innovative.

This very moment, when you receive the gift of graduation, bring home also the gift of inspiration that you are all intelligent even if you are not the valedictorian. Intelligence is not a guarantee that we will all succeed. A person who is intelligent takes on his journey the gift of courage to face failures and frustrations. These are life’s truths. Failures and frustrations will surely come. To face these failures and frustrations require intelligence and skill, and process.

If mistakes are there, remember that they are gems. They inspire you to become better. No less than Thomas Edison said, "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." He did not see failures as frustrations, he saw it with a different set of eyes, inspiring and forward looking.

Winston Churchill said "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

Another gift of learning is the gift of family. It is where you always come home when you are happy and when you are sad. It is where you share your comforts and your fears. It is where you celebrate your dreams and achievements. It is the family that has become your first school. It is where values and character are formed and cultivated. It is where culture is enriched. It is where excellence is encouraged. Excellence is getting better every moment of your life.

The meaning of your person is the meaning of your family to you.

Take also the gift of truth. Truth is when you understand that you know how to use your senses, that you understand who you are and what you are capable of doing, that you understand what more you can give and what more you can do. This is confidence. This is mastery of the self.

The truth is we understand ourselves better when we face challenging situations and the sense of urgency for us act comes very close to us. This is what you feel when you come to school and go back home with empty stomach; when you can’t see the importance of good performance and poverty; when you can humbly say that the gift of possibility is within our hands; that tomorrow, you will no longer walk hungry; that in the next morning, your pocket is full.

When Charles Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, I thought of a life that gets better and a life lived better. To me, it means understanding that I can do something and I can make a difference.

The test of graduation, the test of the gift of learning is the test of daily living the values, of daily using multiple intelligences, of daily strengthening relationships and connectivitry, of daily upholding the truths in your life.

It is a test of learning when you go home and when meet your parents and siblings. It is a test when you go to school, to the market and to the shopping mall, to the seas and to the mountains. The tour of life is test of values and character, is a test of intelligence and maturity which are all necessary in building a nation of good character.

ALL OF US ARE GIFTS. These gifts are tools for nation building. If there are 1,153,643 high school graduates this School Year 2011-2012, there are 1,153,643 gifts distributed in different places in the country today, and they are ready to take the lead in building a community of better persons, and a community of nation builders. They will use their knowledge, skills and values in making a difference. They are peacemakers. They are lovers of their families. They are advocates of nationalism. They are creators of a beautiful future. They are bridges to the next generation.

The gift of learning is the gift of making a difference. It is an invitation for all of us to commit ourselves for nation building.

Before I finally close, I want to publicly acknowledge the big contribution of all my teachers in my coming and in my becoming. My sincerest gratitude for the gifts of learning, for the inspiration, and for the truths.

Let me also thank the school’s administration for the invitation and the confidence that indeed I am this year’s Commencement Speaker. What an honor for me to usher in its 101st year a graduation for future nation builders. Truly, I have come home to the Bicol College of Arts and Trades, now the Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges. As I come home and continue my journey, I bring with me a heart full of gratitude to a school which had become my home for more than a decade of my education. Thank you so much.

To the graduates, I urge all of you to articulate your gratitude to your school, our school, in making yourselves better persons after today. That means using your gifts for your family, for your community and for your country. Good luck, and continue to be good, to be gifts to yourselves, to your family and to the country. Congratulations!





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