I am not graduating today and neither are you. My graduation came the day I was told that I could finally bind my thesis after 51 revisions. There were no cheers or claps that day. There were no witnesses. Only a quiet sense of fulfillment and a voice within me that said it was done and I had done it. That was my graduation. When was yours?
During graduation practice we were told that this was a show. And, it is. For today, all the pomp and ceremony only serves to show that the world has finally recognized what you knew and earned long ago. Today, we receive one of the most expensive pieces of paper we will ever buy. Valuable not only because we've spent almost half a million on tuition fees, books, and allowance, but more importantly, because we've given four or five years of our lives to get it. Years we will never get back.
The history of mankind is the history of individuals. Just as we forget the armies, but treasure the generals that lead them, society forgets those who follow and remembers those who dare to shape the world according to their own vision.
Do you wonder why the Philippines is struggling or why, after millions of dollars in aid and development efforts we remain steeped in poverty? It's because we lack individuals. Not people, individuals. Because too many of our fellow citizens have thrown away their capacity for independent thought. Because too many have abandoned their creative potential in exchange for a pretense at existence. Because we have become a country of superficial imitators.
Have you ever quoted an author without understanding what he meant? Ever parroted an answer to get the grade? Ever watched a show, bought a dress, or joined a club not because you liked it but because everyone else has seen, admired or joined? Then you're as guilty as the bum on the street who refuses to work, and just as culpable for our country's indigence. Perhaps even more so, especially since we have the means and the education to have known better.
Well, today, I challenge you. To become individuals. To get our brains back and start pursuing a goal that's entirely our own. I challenge you to start standing on your own feet and on your own judgment. I know it's scary. And if anything goes wrong, we've no one to blame but ourselves. But I think being wrong a thousand times is worth more than living your life based on someone else's values. Millions are already doing that. They're everywhere. They're people who think one way but act another. They're kids who like fine arts but take up nursing because it's easier to earn that way. They're soldiers who die in battle without knowing why the battle was fought. It's time we started distinguishing ourselves from them.
No one profits from your being ordinary. Dare to imagine. To think BIG. Then, dare to make it come true. Let us push the limits of what is possible, but most of all, let's seek to give our lives purpose. Having fun and enjoying life does not necessarily mean pursuing the stupid, the popular, or the meaningless. Don't look for a job. Look for your calling. Don't find a hobby. Look for a passion. And if you want to study again, forget the diploma, get an education.