By Alex Eduque
Last weekend, I had the honor of giving the keynote address at the GIN Manila conference hosted by the International School Manila.
It is a regional conference that gathers middle-school students from various schools around the Southeast Asia region.
While it is always a privilege when asked to share your thoughts with others, the pressure is different when you return to a familiar place, most especially your alma mater.
Maybe it is the environment that once evoked so much pressure on me that still brings about that familiar feeling, or quite simply because there are a lot of familiar faces and former teachers in the audience that you know their expectations are just set much higher.
Whatever the case is, being asked to give a keynote address, or even just to informally verbalize your thoughts should never be taken for granted.
Time is precious, and of the essence – you always want to make sure your presence and what you are able to share is worthwhile.
Allow me to share with all of your snippets from my twenty (almost thirty) minute keynote address to students from International schools around Southeast Asia on changing mindset and encouraging action.
With a grateful heart, I would like to thank them for the overwhelming feedback. Here is the very abridged version.
As I stand in front of all of you here this morning, an unparalleled sense of nostalgia envelopes me.
A little short of a decade ago, I graduated from this very place.
These same hallways and corridors were my laboratory where a lot of experimentation, questioning, doubting, crying, laughing, and most importantly learning took place.
International School Manila nurtured my mind, gave me a place to grow for ten years, and suffice it to say, will always be an irreplaceable and unparalleled part of me and my life, most especially because it was in this very place that my passion for service was honed and realized.
Through a week-long service learning trip, I found that sharing my time with others gave me a sense of purpose, and made me realize what “sparks my joy” is simply seeing others smile, and knowing that I had a hand in doing so.
When I graduated from high school and left for college, I knew that I did not want my fundraising and volunteerism efforts thus far to go to waste – I wanted to help others find their purpose as well, and the only way to be able to do that was to give them a worthy platform, and some sort of avenue to do so.
Recognizing the limited capacity the youth has in being able to give monetarily, I wanted to still be able to empower them and make them realize that every great success stems from a small, but beautiful beginning.
That if our efforts are concerted, while we may not be able to move mountains, we are still capable of reaching new heights, dreaming big dreams, doing good things, and achieving great goals.
I am often asked what I think the role of the youth is in nation-building, or if I think that they are key in any sector, and I always answer with a loud resounding yes! The youth is the future.
The youth is generation now, and it is key that their minds be shaped and molded into that of the leaders we want to see in the generations to come.
The future depends on them so why not involve them as early as now?
They are, but an equal stakeholder in the growth of our nation, and in the progress of our country.
Their voices should be heard, and the time is now!
Had I written this speech a couple of years ago, I would have said things very differently, and perhaps, would have chosen to speak about other things instead.
But given the current global situation – all the events that have transpired in the past years, I am inclined to think about the role of the youth – within and outside the realms of the non-profit world – in a very different light.
For one, the power of the youth, as an entity when efforts are concerted, provides so much more than just volunteerism.
The youth is a force reckoned to push the glass ceiling and challenge boundaries.
A sector of society whose influence has strengthened, and significantly heightened in the past decade.
I, together with fellow youth advocates, started out with a dream.
That one day, more people would realize that harnessing the energy of the youth paves the way towards creating ripples of change.
I am a staunch advocate of the idea that every single one of us is capable of helping out – that the numerical amount, the money donated, or hours one chooses to lend to a cause is secondary – because really, there is no amount too small when it comes to providing help.
A hard-earned peso, genuine, and given with pure intent weighs so much more than hundreds of millions earned through surplus, profits, or worse, illegal means.
In a society that has become extremely ridden of ill judgment, pessimism, and hate, it is much easier to make a change.
Emerge with positive energy and champion compassion.
Devote your energy to a cause that can possibly re-route the antiquated system of age-old political ideas, and prove to the world that the youth are champions and beacons of light.