Discipline of the Self

Speech during the 79th Commencement Exercises of Bicol College, Daraga, Albay

This is my first time to address the students, their parents and the faculty of Bicol College. I am very happy and honored to finally make it.

President Marcellana invited me twice before. I could not make it on both occasions. But on the third invitation I promised to be here.

I have kept that promised. I hope President Marcellana will invite me for the fourth time. 

Self-discipline is not avoiding promises. It is keeping them. No ifs, no buts.

That is my main message. And I will talk about that shortly.

To all the parents and friends of the graduates, as well as the administration, faculty and staff of Bicol College, I want to convey my highest admiration. This is your day of celebration. I am here to join you..

To the graduating students, life is really worth living. It is a gift from heaven. Yours to improve on it. That will be your best gift to the Creator.

I have a message to give. Let me give it now.

Ours is not a great nation. Why? Because we are without a great leader to lead us.

We have forgotten to become a great nation. We seem to have lost even its memory.

If there is anything we have in great abundance, it is the lack of leaders. And we do not care a whit.

Today begins the first day – yes, the first day – of the rest of your life. Are you prepared to become a leader?

Or are you afraid? I say – do not be afraid.

Do not be afraid to learn to lead. For leadership can be learned.

Do not be afraid to assume to lead. For leadership belongs only to the responsible.

Do not be afraid to pay the price. For leadership is always a big risk.

Between right and wrong, there is no room for lukewarm. It is either-or.

What is right must be kept right. What is wrong must be set right.

Where do you see your potential for great leadership? It is in your ability to discipline yourself.

My best author on war, on generals, on leaders remains to be Sun Tzu. He once wrote, and I quote: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

Sun Tzu said it 253 years before the birth of Jesus. His wisdom applies even more importantly today. And particularly to this nation.

I shall not talk of the people pretending to lead us today. I just want to share one basic necessity for you to lead. It is self-discipline. Know yourself as Sun Tzu said it best.

Does anybody know the big difference between and fool and a wise man? Let me tell you.

A fool wants to conquer the world. A wise man loves to conquer himself.

Know yourself. So said Sun Tzu ages ago.

When do you know yourself to be a person of discipline? It is the time when you accept responsibility. Churchill said it in eloquence: The price of greatness is responsibility. It is responsibility. It can never be lapse of judgment.

I cannot see why the great race of Jose Rizal should be governed by lapses. But as somebody said – we always get the government we deserve.

If you are to be responsible, where do you begin?

First, be responsible for yourself. Stop making excuses. And do not fool around with lapse of judgment.

Second, be responsible to those you lead. If that is command responsibility, it is.

When you have self-discipline, you are never afraid to be responsible. Your good reputation follows as a matter of course.

Your life becomes an open book. In it, nobody can see duplicity or hypocrisy. There is only integrity. There are no chapters of broken promises.

To be responsible is also to be grateful. Self-disciplined people are always the most grateful.

Thank your parents every day. They made no excuses, only sacrifices.

Thank your teachers every time. They took responsibility for you outside of your parents.

And do not forget to return to your alma mater. She will always be there waiting.

To all the parents who are here, let me make a statement. The graduation of your children today shows you have succeeded. For the most precious legacy you can ever bequeath to your children is good formal education.

Now you can celebrate what it means to be a good parent. You really are.

And to all the teachers: Now you can collect your best pay. It shows in the joys of your graduates.

This is a day of HOPE for all of us. And what should we be hoping for?

First, for the Health of our People.

Second, for the Order of our Nation.

Third, for the Progress of our Country.

And fourth, for the Education of all our children.

Without health as a people, we die of disease. Not only of disease of the body but more importantly of the mind.

Without order as a people, we die of crime. Not only of crime to kill the body, but more importantly of graft that destroys the soul.

Without progress as a people, we die of starvation. Not only of the body but more importantly of the will to compete with other nations.

Without education of our young, what else is there to live for? I doubt if there is anything still worth dying for.

These are the four categorical imperatives for our nation today. We now need the best leaders we can find. Bring them in this coming May.

Bringing in the best leaders is your choice. Do not allow anyone to choose for you.

And never give up on your right. If someday you intend to give up, remember this advice: Just when you are about to give up, stand up. Then make a difference.

Once more, I want to congratulate all of you. And I ask all of you to get moving after celebrating your graduation.