‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’

/ 05:04 AM March 25, 2019

All over the country, the month of March is marked by graduation exercises both at the secondary and the university levels. Only last week, the Philippine National Police Academy held its graduation rites at Camp Mariano Castañeda in Silang, Cavite. Politicians, high government officials and prominent business leaders are in great demand as commencement speakers. I hope they keep in mind that a graduation crowd is a restless group just waiting to break away for an evening of wild abandon after years of lectures, books and examinations. Some of the commencement speeches are good for a couple of press releases but most of them do not really have any impact on the graduates. In fact, many are long, boring and pompous lectures, and few in the audience are seriously interested in what is being said.

When I graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1956, the commencement address was delivered by Jose B. Laurel Jr., the speaker of the House of Representatives. I don’t recall a single line from Laurel’s talk. We were in white dress uniform and I was too busy trying to figure out where my girlfriend was seated. It was one of the few instances when the guest of honor at the PMA was not the president of the republic. The president then was Ramon Magsaysay, and the Armed Forces chief of staff was Lt. Gen. Jesus Vargas. Since then, it has become a tradition for the PMA to have the commander in chief as the commencement speaker. In the past, I advocated that perhaps, from time to time, the graduation speaker could be one of our heroes, or high achievers from either the military or the civilian sector, individuals whose lives were a source of inspiration and were held in high esteem by the nation.


One interesting commencement address was that of Artemio Panganiban during the graduation exercises of the Institute of Law, Far Eastern University in April 1995. Part of his message was: “I am proud to be a graduate of the FEU, the best law school in the Philippines. Actually, that statement was challenged by a Cabinet member who is a friend. He claimed that his alma mater which is located somewhere in Diliman, Quezon City, was the best. He said, ‘Our law school is the best because from our graduates come the most number of Philippine presidents, Cabinet members, senators, congressmen, justices, judges and other public officials, whereas the FEU Institute of Law has yet to produce a Supreme Court justice or a secretary of justice, not to say a president or a vice president of the Philippines.’ For a while, I was taken aback—but only temporarily—as I burst forth, that is why our country is plagued with poverty, corruption and injustice. It is because a majority of our key officials are products of your law school. Just wait when the FEU graduates take over—we shall have the Philippines we are all dreaming of.”

Six months after delivering this address, Panganiban took his oath of office as associate justice, the first product of the FEU Institute of Law to make it to the high court. While the remarks of Panganiban may have been made in levity, the message remains food for thought. Washington Sycip, in a speech some years ago, asked why, after more than 50 years of independence from the United States, the country was still mired in poverty and corruption and was being left behind by its Asean neighbors, when we had great educational institutions like the University of the Philippines that has produced many of the nation’s political leaders, legal luminaries and economic experts. The University of Santo Tomas is an institution even older than Harvard University. Perhaps, Lee Kuan Yew had an answer. In his autobiography, he wrote about the culture of the Filipino people. He observed that Filipino professionals in Singapore are as good, if not better than others. “The difference lies in the culture of the people. It is a soft, forgiving, culture.” Here, most often, no one really gets punished except if you are poor.


Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computers and Pixar Animation Studios, delivered the 114th commencement address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005. He told the graduates: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Jobs ended his address quoting from a publication called Whole Earth Catalog. Its final issue had a farewell message for its readers: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

“And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

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