The following message was delivered by guest speaker, Mr. John B. Echauz (’91), during the Grade School Closing Ceremonies last 19 March 2015.
Father Ari, esteemed members of the Xavier School faculty and administration, parents of the graduates – thank you very much for having me. It is an honor and privilege to address your students and sons this fine day.
Good afternoon, dear graduates. My name is John B Echauz. I graduated from Xavier School’s grade school in 1987 – 28 years ago. I am 40 years old. We call my age, middle-age. While I am no longer considered young, I am not yet old. I still have the enthusiasm and some strength of youth, but recognize that taking care of the Philippines and of the planet Earth is now the responsibility of my generation.
28 years from now, one of you will be standing here instead of me. And I, and most others my age, will slowly find our way to the exit and happily turn over the keys of the world to you.
Allow me to begin by telling two stories. Story number one.
Once upon a time, there was a very poor farmer who was in charge of producing food for his family and small village. He had two small storehouses. In one storehouse, he kept the harvest. He had rice, corn, tomatoes and potatoes. In another storehouse, he kept his seeds – also for rice, corn, tomatoes and potatoes.
One day, two thieves snuck into his farm. The first thief broke into the first storehouse and stole all of the farmer’s produce. The second thief broke into the second storehouse and stole all of the farmer’s seeds.
Let’s pretend that you are the farmer. How do you feel about a thief stealing your harvest? Then, how do you feel about a thief stealing your seeds?
Story number two.
Once upon a time there was a young man who was bitten by a radioactive spider. The freak accident gave him the proportionate strength, speed and wall-climbing ability of that small, hairy, eight-legged creature.
His first thought was to use his new-found powers to make some money. He was asked to stop an escaping criminal but he refused because there was no money to be made by helping.
Just a few hours later, he was horrified to find that the same criminal killed the uncle who was like a father to him.
He then dedicated his life to living up to his uncle’s advice that “with great power comes great responsibility”.
What is the relevance of these two stories?
Our country the Philippines continues to be poor. While we have a population of 100 million, we have very few people who can create and implement ideas and solutions that will provide all of us enough nutritious food to eat, enough safe homes to live in, enough medicines to cure our sicknesses and enough schools to educate us.
To solve these problems, we need creative people. Let’s call them creators.
To be a creator, a person needs a few important things – (1) the habit of working hard, (2) a good, solid education, (3) exposure to how people think and do things in other parts of the world, and (4) access to resources like tools, equipment, computers, some money and friends willing to work with you.
As a poor country, we have very, very few creators. And, my dear graduates, guess what? These few creators will include each one of you.
You ask yourself – Me? Why me?
My friends, by pure luck, you were born to your parents who have the resources and love to send you to this very good school.
What will you do with this opportunity? Will you use it to merely build a comfortable life for yourself – buying things and going on vacations? Or will you use it to make the country and the world a better place?
My young friends – you are not the fruits – you are the seeds. A fruit, when it is eaten, is gone. A seed, when it is planted, becomes a tree that bears thousands and thousands of fruit in its lifetime.
Each one of you is a seed. Each one of you has the potential to make life better for so many people.
My mother spoke at a very poor school recently – one student was wearing plastic bags in his feet, held tight by rubber bands. His lunch was rice, ketchup and two small circles of cheap luncheon meat. Will you allow this kind of suffering to go on? Or will you be the primary cause for change?
Our country and our planet need champions – creators and leaders.
Some of you will work on solving the problem of lack – the lack of nutritious food, clean water, safe homes, health care and education.
Some of you will work to create peace amidst war and conflict – conflict among countries, conflict among groups of people who see things very differently, even conflict among family members.
Some of you will work to clean up our planet – to avert environmental catastrophe – and to restore the Earth to its original beauty and diversity.
Some of you will work to create new technologies, new art, new ways of expression and thinking that push the boundaries of what makes us human.
Some of you will even work in outer space and take to the stars to ensure man’s survival and to fulfill his natural role as explorer.
Yes, each one of you has a very special purpose and a very special role to fill.
God the Father designed each one of you to have strengths, talents and interests that will help the evolution of mankind. God created each one of you with so much potential.
This potential, however, if not tapped, remains just that – potential. And potential, unless realized, is not useful to anybody.
As you leave grade school and begin your next six years of high school, you will find that it is your responsibility to gain for yourself a complete education.
You must study hard and keep your eyes, ears and minds open.
Your science must be strong. It must be at par with what boys your age are studying at the best science schools in the world. Your physics, chemistry and biology will need to be supplemented by computer programming, robotics and “making”.
Your mathematics must be strong. The world’s problems today require a lot of data – a lot of numbers – to solve. You will need to be good at algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus, at the very least.
You will need strong communication skills – both verbal and written – if you want to effectively share ideas with the people all over the world.
You must read. Books – classical and modern – are essential. You can see the whole world just by opening up a book. Books will teach you different ways of thinking.
You must be well-rounded. Art, music and sports must play a part in your life.
Most importantly – you must have a strong foundation in ethics and morality.
How can you tell right from wrong?
How can you do what is right when doing what is right is difficult and doing what is wrong is easy?
What is your role in this world?
Will you contribute or will you feed off the efforts of others? —
Before I close, I only have two things left to say.
First – make the most of your life.
Second – don’t waste a single day.
Thank you very much.