Younger people are often told to find their life’s purpose. We’re encouraged to uphold purpose over profit, or to combine purpose with profit. We’re told we need a purpose because purpose creates true happiness.
Finding my purpose at De La Salle University was easy. Like many of you, I was a scholar. I say many because according to the latest figures, 26% of DLSU students are full scholars. I entered DLSU feeling privileged and blessed because a prestigious institution had accepted me with open arms; it had accepted me with a gift, the St. La Salle Financial Scholarship Grant.
My family has always faced financial constraints. I used to commute from home to high school, riding with friends to save money (luckily, I had friends who truly understood my situation). There were times we had to transfer homes because we could no longer afford to stay in them. Once, my family and I were separated because we couldn’t all stay in the home of a close relative.
I always felt envious of my friends and classmates who could easily ask for and get what they wanted. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’ve never been afraid to share this story because these same difficulties molded me and eventually gave me purpose. On the day DLSU granted me a scholarship, I resolved to serve and give back to the institution that has given me so much.
Mark Zuckerberg believes that our generation’s challenge of is to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose. But I think finding your purpose nowadays is relatively easy. You can find these in your classes, your internships, society’s problems, and even national issues. I feel like we live in a world where everyone is at least slightly aware of his or her purpose.
Perhaps our generation’s real challenge is how to coexist when numerous, deeply held purposes contradict one another. How do we build a nation with purposeful yet conflicting citizens?
Think about it. If there is anything that terrorists have, it’s a sense of purpose. And it’s so easy for us to say theirs is an evil purpose, but these days, as soon as you stick a label on someone, a label gets stuck on you, too. It’s terrorist sympathizers versus Islamophobes, human rights violators versus drug lord enablers, racists versus disrespecters, Tards versus Tards. It’s so difficult to get people to talk with each other these days without breaking ties.
To this, I can offer only some insights from my 18 years of Lasallian education and from a year of having been student government president. In my work, I attended many meetings and interacted with different personalities. Naturally, arguments and conflicts occurred during these meetings. I can say though that in my two years of having worked closely with the different sectors of DLSU, there was never a time that we did not achieve consensus. Here are why.
First, during important meetings, kailangang masarap ang pagkain. I’m only half-kidding. Before we ask something from our parents, we get them in a good mood by showing them our test papers or Dean’s List certificates. It’s about building goodwill, which can be the basis of some kind of relationship, then maybe later of dialogue.
Second, as much as we could, we did things together and by association. When you get everyone together to tackle shared problems, people will bicker. But if you keep explaining and being patient, good things can happen. In all the meetings that I attended about student fees, national issues, or even our Christmas celebration, all stakeholders — students, faculty, administrators, parents, and employees — were given time to voice out concerns and were considered in the decision making.
I’m sure you know about the Lean Years, the last couple of years when fewer freshmen entered DLSU and enrollment dropped from roughly 3,500 students to 1,200 students. It was stressful for many, and hard decisions had to be made, but by keeping the dialogue going, DLSU retained its quality of education, continued to build the Laguna Campus, and did not let go of any employee. Each sector, including us students, accepted a budget cut to ensure that members of our community would keep their jobs.
Hindi ba mas okay kapag ganito? Kapag ang mga Pilipino ay handang magsakripisyo para sa kapwa Pilipino?
Third, we tried to stay humble in victory or defeat. Tell your seatmates who are cum laudes or magna cum laudes they did well. I’m sure they’ll say, “Tsamba lang.” Many of the student organization presidents whom I worked with seldom used “I.” They always used “we.”
I once attended an out-of-town conference with a Brother who, despite being president of a Lasallian institution, flew economy. I’m sure he could have flown in business class, but he chose not to. Lean Years kasi. What’s more, he volunteered to watch my bags at the airport because he knew I wanted to roam around because it was my first time in the city. Imagine the president of a Lasallian institution watching my bags just so I could sightsee.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we had more humble leaders who unify the nation instead of dividing it?
Last, but my favorite, at La Salle, we always start and end with a prayer — during classes, meetings, and big events. At the first meeting where I had to lead in one of my internships, I started and ended with a prayer. The faces of my boss and the agency representatives told me they found it weird. I’m sure they found me weird. But at La Salle, this is the norm.
In all my meetings with him, former DLSU Chancellor Gerardo Janairo always ended with his favorite one-line prayer: “Lord, the work is Yours.” This prayer strips us of all the glory from our work and achievements, and brings it back to God.
So purpose, yes. But fellow graduates, it’s more than just having it. Let us bring to our troubled nation our Lasallian heritage of goodwill toward all, association with all, and humility toward all. Faith. Service. Communion. Tignan natin; baka ito ang makatulong. Maybe, just maybe, this is the change that should be coming.
Zedrcik F. Laqui graduated cum laude with degrees in Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics and Bachelor of Science in Applied Corporate Management from De La Salle University. He received both the Student Leadership Award and the Community Development Award. This article was excerpted from his speech during the 180th Commencement Exercises at the Philippine International Convention Center on Oct. 14.