Address delivered at the 63rd Founders Day Convocation, August 28, 1964, Silliman University, Dumaguete City.
Authors note: I was invited by my UP classmate, Dr. Cicero Calderon, the president of Silliman University at the time, to speak at the Silliman campus in Dumaguete City during the 63rd celebration of Founder's Day, August 28,1964. He and his elder brother Jose (Pepe) had been close to our family since 1936 when we all began our pre-law course. In mid-1965, I campaigned for the Senate. This speech was reproduced during the campaign by many students of Silliman and other schools and colleges. Later, it was reprinted in various periodicals and collections of speeches, including my own collection, entitled "Land of the Morning."
Long before your distinguished President invited me to speak on this your day of days — in point of fact, as far back as the tender years of my childhood — Silliman had been vividly impressed upon my memory. Every once in a while, my mind would catch, however faintly, strains of music from long, long ago, when my elder brother, fresh from what seemed to me then a wonderful adventure in a world far from home, used to sing that sweet song with words I can still remember — "Silliman Beside the Sea."
I felt, even as a child, that there was some strange fascination in that song, for a restless, unyielding urge to go back to Silliman seemed to possess and haunt my brother all the time. He studied here in what he must have considered the best years of his life and he has not quite recovered from the incredible charm and magic of this lovely, blessed place.
Many years later — that is, after the second World War — your then President, Dr. Arthur Carson, learned that I was going to the United States to pursue graduate studies in law and he very kindly gave me letters of recommendation addressed to two outstanding universities in America. I would like to let you know, and I have been saying this many a time — that those letters were given the highest degree of consideration because the schools there considered as a university that possesses the highest traditions of scholarship and excellence.
When I learned some three years ago that my former classmate and good friend, Dr. Calderon, accepted the offer to become the President of this University, I was happy both for your President and this institution, convinced as I was, that an enduring partnership had been forged and that Silliman could look ahead, for even brighter days, in the unending quest for truth and goodness and beauty.
I am therefore grateful for the opportunity to be with you on your 63rd Anniversary. The journey started by Horace Silliman and Dr. and Mrs. David Sutherland Hibbard on August 28, 1901 has been in a sense, a long and tiresome journey. Were we to call the roll of the men and women — from the highest officials to the humblest teacher and worker — who have dedicated their energies, their talents, their hearts and even their very lives to see that the journey is not interrupted, so that the quest may not stop, so that the tradition of excellence may go on, against seemingly endless odds and obstacles without number, we would have a fair measure of the kind of quiet heroism that went into the making and building of Silliman.
But, in a deeper sense, the journey has not been long, it has not been tiresome. The journey has just begun and the thrill of wonder and adventure will never end. Sixty-three years is a long time, but you are still young. For in the language of a General who has faded away —
"Youth is not entirely a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not wholly a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips or supple knees. It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the springs of life.
"Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long wires that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
"You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair. In the central place of your heart, there is a recording chamber; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young. When the wires are all down and your heart is covered with the snow of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then — and then only — are you grown old."
May I take the liberty of reminding you that the capacity of Silliman to get into the stream of things and contribute to the life and the spirit of the nation has not been fully tapped? True it is that from the ranks of Silliman graduates great leaders have emerged in the field of thought and action, in the arts and sciences, in government and in private enterprise, but we would all be committing a tragic mistake if we were to look back only to the glories of the past and forget the new challenges of our time, if we were to count in detail its achievements and overlook the massive tasks that would require of you more than just planning and effort, but the vision and the dedication of a lifetime.
For when we begin to look around us, we see that amidst the physical reconstruction of towns and cities, the rebuilding of homes and factories and shops, there has crept in a serious case of internal breakdown. Buildings and edifices have gone up, but the edifice that constitutes the real soul of the nation is beginning to shake and unless everyone of us does something about it, the national structure may collapse and go down.
There is a feeling of despair and hopelessness amongst those who are overwhelmed by the immensity of our problems — the fact of widespread, grinding poverty, the problem of massive unemployment in the context of a society that possesses a high rate of population growth, the fact of graft and the paralysis of initiative in public service, the chronic problem of moral breakdown and the wastage and neglect of human resources.
But those who continue to hope and refuse to give up the good fight look primarily to the institutions of learning to provide the guidance and direction in critical days such as these. For it is in the schools, the colleges and the universities of the land where the youth who will pilot the affairs of tomorrow are being taught and trained and equipped for what we trust will be a better kind of leadership.
It may well be that society is placing an impossibly difficult demand on the capabilities of institutions such as this. For it is evident that the schools and the universities cannot, by themselves alone, do the job. Nor can they mean much unless society itself comes to grips with the paradoxes that confront the youth.
For the youth is a witness of many glaring contradictions. He hears democracy extolled in every forum, but wonders whether democracy is worth fighting for if it merely means the freedom to out-shout and out-promise and out-smear the other fellow. He is told in school that honesty is the best policy, but he sees how artfully society lionizes and pampers the fellow who made a clean million with a couple of clever tricks. He is made to believe that it is a great thing to serve his country, but he begins to doubt that considering how shamelessly those in power have abused it and earned the well-deserved contempt of the people they profess to love so well.
He is told that honest toil is good and most rewarding, but he sees his elders engage themselves in the mad, breathless drive to make a pile through fast and dubious means. He is taught that in courts of justice, rich and poor are treated alike and that the poor man with the right cause will win out in the end — but he never quite recovers when a crime committed in his presence is lightly disposed of, because there are no witnesses and those in authority are only too willing to look the other way.
He is told in public schools that merit alone matters, but he finds a confirmation of his deepest suspicions right in school itself — the teacher with the best preparation and who knows how to teach and discipline is not promoted, because he has no backing and the student who cheats and bluffs his way through school is considered smart, because he does not get caught. And when in his everyday world, he sees that it is not what you are, not what you know, but whom you know and how much you are worth that matter in the end, he becomes a hopeless, helpless bundle of confusion and unbelief.
Shall we, the school officials and teachers and students, throw up our hands in resignation and defeat and pass back the whole burden to society?
You in Silliman cannot do that, even if you wanted to. For you are an institution of learning wedded to a mission you cannot abandon without denying your own existence. Yours is an institution that serves the highest end of a free society, namely, to help men develop their potentialities to the fullest extent possible so they may live meaningful lives in a social order that accords first priority to the intrinsic worth and dignity of the human personality. It is precisely because the problems of this our world and time are so critical and the tasks so demanding that it becomes your peculiar, unavoidable responsibility to get into the stream of things and relate your assets and resources to the needs of the nation. Yours is a work of great relevance.
And in that task, your main function as a University is to produce, as you have done so in the past, the educated man.
When I say "educated man," I do not refer to the individual who has read a thousand books and magazines, however important reading may be to the life of the mind. One of the most unfortunate things in this country is that so much is read by so many who do not know what to read. Because of cheap paper and printing, comics, pulp magazines and cheap literature have replaced the classics and the great masterpieces. As a consequence, an enormous mental garbage has been piled up beyond our collective capacity to liquidate. Writers of history a hundred years from now, in assessing the quality of education in the Philippines, may have ample reason to say that our schools have produced a vast population able to read, but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. It was Mark Twain, I believe, who said he never allowed his schooling to interfere with his education.
When I use the term "educated man," I do not mean the individual who has memorized a thousand facts and assembled in his mind a million data, on the basis of which he has earned a string of academic degrees. I do not mean to minimize the importance of memory, for it is stating the obvious when I say we should be able to observe, sort out and remember relevant facts so we may have a sound basis for each judgment. Of Themistocles, it has been said that he knew by heart the names of twenty thousand citizens of Athens; and Cyrus, it is recorded, knew every soldier in his huge army. Indeed, how refreshing it would be for our youth to learn by heart Jesus' inimitable Sermon on the Mount, the magnificent soliloquies of Shakespeare, the unforgettable dialogue of Plato and in our own land, the lofty language of Arellano and Laurel, the trenchant outbursts of Manuel Quezon and the elegant prose of Claro M. Recto. How inspiring it would be for our young men and women to remember the historic landmarks in our struggle for freedom — from the heroism of Lapu-Lapu to the lonely battle of Del Pilar at Tirad Pass, from the field of Bagumbayan where the young Rizal met his tragic death to the dark dungeons of Fort Santiago, where the youth of the land suffered a thousand times and met a thousand deaths! Nor do I minimize the significance of degrees and diplomas in a degree-conscious society such as we have, except to emphasize the danger of mistaking a degree for intellectual worth. A college graduate has once been described as one who at the end of his studies is presented with a sheepskin to cover his intellectual nakedness.
When I say "educated man," I do not refer to the skilled engineer, the able trial lawyer, the talented musician, the gifted writer, or the expert surgeon. Far be it from me to underrate the importance of skills and talents. Sometime ago, I made reference to the fact that while we have abundant natural resources in this country, we do not have sufficient skills to make this country great. Japan is relatively poor in natural resources, with land scarcely enough to sustain her tremendous population, but despite a war that laid waste her towns and cities, she has recovered and come back with greater vigor because she has a people of abundant skills.
But I would like to submit the proposition that one becomes a great scientist, an able lawyer, or a noted writer, only because he is first — and pre-eminently a good man. An abundant talent employed to serve an evil end is a prostitution of divine endowment.
What, then, is the educated man? Is he the man who has read a lot? Partly yes, because his reading is serious and discriminate and uplifting. Is he the man who remembers many facts and events? Partly yes, because the training of memory is a wholesome discipline that requires effort and application and because one cannot make a sound judgement without respect for remembered facts. Is the educated man, then, one who because of his skill is able to provide for himself and his family? Partly yes, since education should teach us how to make a living. But there is one thing we should always remember and it is this — that far more important than the making of a living, is a living of life — a good life, a meaningful life, an abundant life.
The educated man lives this kind of a life, because he has opened the windows of his mind to great thoughts and ennobling ideas; because he is not imprisoned by the printed page, but chooses to make a relentless, rigorous analysis and evaluation of everything he reads; because he is less interested in the accumulation of degrees than in the stimulation of his mind and the cultivation of a generous spirit; because his interest is less in knowing who is right but more importantly, in discerning what is right and defending it with all the resources at his command; because he can express himself clearly and logically, with precision and grace; because he is not awed by authority, but is humble enough to recognize that his best judgment is imperfect and may well be tainted by error or pride; because he has a deep reverence for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, as a creature of God; because he has a healthy sense of values, a breadth of outlook and the depth of compassion which a purposeful education generates; because whenever he talks about good government he is prepared and willing to sacrifice himself for it; and because he lives a life of relevance to the world in which we live, a sharing in the problems of his time and doing whatever he can with intelligence and fairness and understanding.
In short, it is the responsibility of Silliman, as in all other institutions of learning in this country, to produce the educated man and to produce him in such number and of such high quality of excellence that Silliman products will be a leavening influence in a time of great challenge and in a world of countless perils.
But Silliman is not just any other university— it is a Christian institution. The message of Jesus has a wealth of meaning it cannot afford to ignore — "Be ye the salt of the earth... Be ye the light of the world" And when Silliman produces, as it has in the past, these kind of men, we may better appreciate the truth and beauty of the words of Emerson: —
"Not gold, but only men, can make
A nation great and strong.
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men, who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others shy.
They build a nation's pillars deep,
And lift them to the sky."