By Mark Lester Ranchez
It’s commencement season in the Philippines. Pictures of graduating students wearing their ‘sablay’ and ‘toga’ are flooding my Facebook’s newsfeed. A fresh batch of young hopefuls is sent off to the real world. What kind of world awaits them? What lies beyond the confines of their universities? What kind of leaders will they become? There are so many questions that only time can tell the answer
Let me share an excerpt from the Valedictory Speech of Herbert Paat, lone summa cum laude of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Graduating Class of 2019.
“Many people long for purpose and significance. But they do not find it in this world. Our security and confidence are based on the wrong things. We find our essence in our relationships, fame, recognition, intelligence, or wealth. These are latched on to our virtual selves as curated by and through our social media accounts.
But the truth be said: our worth is not found in this world. It can only be found in God. Along the way, we have lost the values of integrity, honesty, honor, and excellence. We have perverted the definition of love. But let me tell you what love is. Love is Jesus Christ dying for us despite the poverty of our souls. Love is the salvation He gave us for free by His grace. Love is selflessness and humility in service. Love is denying ourselves for the service of others and of God. Love is laying down one’s life for others. The love of Jesus Christ is the solution to the poverty of our souls. In order to save the nation, we must save its people. And Christ can do that if we allow Him to enter our hearts.
My challenge for all of us graduates is clear. Let us overcome our poverties by applying the lessons we learned from UP and by knowing God, trusting Him, and walking in obedience to Him. Only then can we be honorable and excellent. Only then can we serve this nation!”
As I read his speech and ponder upon the current situation of our nation, my heart was struck. I was filled with hope for the next generation. But at the same time, a sense of urgency rushed through my veins as I look at my two little children. I have a very big role to play in their lives. I have been called not just to feed their bodies but also to nourish their souls by instilling in them the fear of the Lord that will guide them to become a man and a woman of integrity, humility and faith. I am raising the next generation of leaders who will one day make an impact in their spheres of influence.
Just recently, 30-year old Vico Sotto ended the two-decade rule of a powerful political dynasty, the Eusebios. His promise of a leadership with integrity has won the hearts of the people of Pasig. He was considered a David who fought against a Goliath in the political arena. On his first day of office, he fulfilled a promise to suspend the three-year-old odd-even traffic scheme, which caused confusion among motorists. And it is just the beginning of a new Pasig under his leadership. Vico is a product of a prayerful and a God-fearing mother. When he was in the university, he was surrounded by men and women of faith who discipled him to be the man that he is right now. He is a powerful example of a next-generation leader who at a young age has been reached by the gospel.
We need to raise more Vicos in this generation and in the next. We need to give birth to more future leaders who will say no to corruption and unrighteousness, people who will fight against greed and selfishness, world-changers who will govern with integrity of heart and excellence in all their ways.
In a world where truth is relative and where the line between good and evil is thin and grey, we have a vital role to play. In a time where the youth is being lured into drug addiction and premarital sex, and many of them are drowning in anxiety and depression and attacked by insecurity and identity crisis, we are called to fight for them, and we have to fight hard. We should not give up on them and give them up to the whims of this world.
We have weapons in our hands. Prayer is the most powerful of them. We have the message of hope and light that will guide them to lead godly lives. The best gift we can give them is our availability and listening ears. They must always be assured that we are here for them and that they are loved and not forsaken. As we raise them to be men and women of character and faith, integrity and honesty, love and compassion, the future will be bright and our nation will have hope.
I graduated thirteen years ago. Where I was released into was a tough playing field. But because of the many spiritual mothers and fathers who guided me when I was in the university, and the many prayers sown into my life, I was able to fight the battles I faced along the way. And now, as a mother of two, I have taken on the challenge to train the next generation who will change their world for the better. As I lay my hands on them in prayer every night and as I speak hope into their lives, I am sowing seeds in the nations and the next generation. My children are my greatest legacy. Raising them to be individuals who love, obey and fear the Lord will be my ultimate success. Through them, I can change the world.
As Psalm 78:4-6 says, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done…so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born.”
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