Lessons from our forefathers (and mothers): Greatness is never a given. It must be earned

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash
of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;
Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. ”

— Barack Obama, 19 January 2009

For complete transcript of Obama’s inaugural speech, go to
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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The Obama Inauguration: Get a Piece of history

The excitement in the air is almost tangible.    On Jan 20,  2009,  Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.    For me, his presidential campaign was remarkable not just because he was making history as the first black president but because he generated a feeling which had been missing in American politics for a long long time.  Hope.  Belief in the Power of One.  The idea that we can bring about change.  

inaugural-pigObama mania shows no sign of abating.   It seems as if everyone wants to get a piece of history.   The Inaugural Collectibles Online Store is doing extremely well,  selling everything from fleece jackets and onesies to champagne glases and bronze medallions.   For me,  the best of the bunch is the cute transparent blue piggy bank with the 2009 Inaugural Seal.    Your kid will outgrow the clothes or might not appreciate the commemorative coins but this piggy bag will,  I am sure,  stand the test of time.  It is a great opportunity to remind the younger generation that on this day,  a man was sworn into the highest position of this land,  swept into office largely because of the grassroots support he and his supporters were able to generate.   The Obama campaign was an overwhelming success on all fronts:  from the numbers of new votes it was able to enlist to the number of small donors who enabled him to become the  first major-party candidate since the system was created to reject taxpayers’ money for the general election.   Yes,  one vote,  one dollar can make a difference.  

Let this be start of something new. 

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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The Kids Say: You Can Vote However You Want

Tired of the endless back and forth of the two parties?  Confused as to whom to vote for?  The talented kids of Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy have broken down their key arguments and set them down to music.   Their key message: 

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like

So on Nov 4th,  be sure you go out and Don’t Vote.

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Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

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Politics: Acquisition of Authority and Power

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Abraham Lincoln

One definition given for politics is “social relations involving authority or power”. Call me a cynic but in the Philippine context I would have to say that politics is social relations involving the acquisition of authority or power. Lord Acton warned that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Per Bylund refined this further by stating that while power does really corrupt, it is equally true that corrupt people seek power. “Only people not able to grow tall from their own efforts and achievements seek to subdue their fellow man; only people not being able to find comfort in their own mind seek to silence others; those who are unable to produce their own wealth aim to confiscate the wealth of others”.

About 15 years ago, my dad had a very interesting conversation with a young scion of a political family who at the time was the chief campaign officer of his congressman brother (now a senator). When asked what he would do, he confided that he too would run for public office… because that was the only thing he knew how to do. How horrifyingly honest. He is now a vice-governor with an unsavoury reputation who is quietly amassing an impressive real estate portfolio.

I once dated a man with political ambitions of his own. We used to have long conversations about happiness and the lengths we are willing to go to attain it. Not yet even 30 and he was a trapo posing as an idealist with a leftist frame of mind. He saw nothing wrong with forming untenable and undesirable alliances in order to attain a position of power which would enable him to implement the social programs he wanted. He was unable (or unwilling) to contemplate the possibility that once in power, he would have to dig himself deeper in the mud in order to stay there. Hmmm… sounds familiar? Needless to say, nothing came out of that relationship. As for Glorietta, she has lost all the goodwill she used to enjoy because of her blatant desperation to remain at the top. Each cabinet reshuffle gets worse and worse as more snakes are coming out in the open.

Darwin, Patrick and I formed SUFIA thinking that there would be enough local governments who would have the good sense to see the potential in securing lower cost financing for revenue-generating projects. It was a win-win situation (at least in our eyes). The funds would be held in escrow and released to the contractor after pre-determined milestones were reached. The LGU would have a self-sustaining project e.g. public market, bus terminal, housing project, convention halls, education centres etc. The lenders would have a healthy guaranteed return. We had one side of the equation down pat, having established our competence and credibility with the heads of the financing institutions. Unfortunately, we ran into a stumbling block with the local governments. We were young turks with a whole lot of brain power who did not believe in applying the grease (not at our level anyway). The added accountability plus the timetable was also something that we had not taken into consideration. Sitting officials had very short-term goals (needing quick hits to gain visibility) AND were unwilling to compromise their IRA. We still believe in the model’s viability but have placed Sufia on hiatus until we get a worthwhile project/propopent.

We are a country whose political maturity is in its infancy. As political toddlers, we are easily drawn to people who promise the biggest toys. Ask not what you can do for my municipality but what you can do for me and mine…mine…mine. Combine low EQ and low purchasing power and you have a powder keg waiting to be lit. Lord Acton’s lecture to his students could just as aptly apply to those seeking to enter politics: “I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives, and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on wrong.” Do not live in the here and now but rather, strive in an upright manner towards a goal while history will view favourably when you are long gone. You cannot take your money with you in the afterlife but your heirs will suffer from your bad reputation. Even worse, they may develop to be just like you….

Gee Chiz, A Whiz You Definitely Are Not….

….but I never thought of you as a Dunce… until yesterday that is. I must admit that political views aside, I used to have a high opinion of Francis Escudero. I remember listening to him speak at the commencement exercises of St. Joseph Academy about 4-5 years ago and thinking to myself that not only will this man surpass the achievements of his father, Kiko Escudero, he will have a big positive impact on the way this country is run. I was right about the first part but am now re-thinking my position on the second.

I ran across an entry in micketymoc’s blog which made me see red. Apparently, the congressman from Sorsogon advocated a revision of the public school curriculum which would reduce the number of regular subjects such as trigonometry, calculus, geometry, and algebra “since these are not relevant to the everyday life of Filipinos.” “May mga paksa na hindi naman talaga konektado sa paghahanap ng trabaho. Bakit natin pinahihirapan ang mga estudyante?” (“Some subjects aren’t really connected to finding work. Why do we need to burden our students?”)

I (almost) have no words to describe how I feel about this. To say that these particular soundbites are ill-thought and highly irresponsible are understatements. The backbone of any thriving economy is the quality of scientists and mathematicians it produces. Leader from Europe and the United States are increasingly concerned that the next generation is not interested in the sciences, which will impact research and innovation.

The ludicrous proposition from Cong. Escudero, if implemented, will merely widen the economic and social gap as public school students are not given the tools they will need to get higher paying jobs both here and abroad. It is a stop-gap solution offered by near-sighted politicians pandering to their electorate so that they may be re-elected.

What type of students does Chiz want the Philippine public educational system to produce? The argument that these subjects are not really connected to finding work misses the point. While it true that we may not use trig or geometry in our everyday lives, the discipline and logical/critical thinking skills attained are invaluable side effects. That is actually one of my main grips with the DLSU educational system. By concentrating on major subjects at the expense of literature and philosophy, they are churning out two-dimensional graduates who lack communication skills and critical thinking.

Our esteemed leaders mouth platitudes about the state of education in this country while their actions say something very different. Travel around the Philippines and you will find districts which are focusing on building arches and athletic facilities (basketball courts) over upgrading the overall quality of classrooms and educational equipment.

Congressman Escudero, if what was reported in the media is this truly what you believe, then I do NOT wish you the best in your political career. You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing who does not have the best interest of your constituents or our countrymen in mind. You are not the visionary you perceive yourself to be.

Links:
1. Philippine Daily Inquirer
2. Journal Group of Companies
3. Micketymoc
4. Missing Points

If you would like to help, there a number of NGOs which are helping equip public schools with much needed equipment:
1. Project Gilas
2. FIT-ED