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    A Nation Of Readers; A Nation Of Leaders

    25 November 2016 Message at the 100 for 200: A Ceremonial Turnover of Storybooks, Araw ng Pag-(b)asa, Ayala Foundation, Inc., Ayala Museum

    When I was a child, I would bury myself in a book for hours, preferring reading to navigating conversations. I was a quiet child; more introvert than extrovert.

    I cherished the experience of falling into another world as I rushed through pages of text. I loved seeing people and places through the eyes of another person. I was enthralled by the words. The process of digesting thoughts was as enticing to me as finally sharing with the author that moment of discovery.

    Kaya ko po ito sinasabi kasi may mga bata tayo dito. Our children read less compared to when we were small children still.

    I found it fascinating that books are not just about knowledge and truth. They are also about the process of sharpening minds, developing critical thinking, strengthening character, and believing that the right will always prevail over the wrong.

    We need these in our society today—both knowledge and truth, and the ability to discern them. Whether we are talking about the youth bombarded left and right by so many versions of lies, or those who are older and supposedly wiser, the need is the same.

    It is essential for our societies and our communities to turn back to homegrown values of simplicity, integrity, honesty, and service. Of cohesiveness, rather than divisiveness. Of the simple belief in the possible, rather than the impossible. Of the ability of our nation to come together, no matter the color of our skin, our religious books, nor our politics.

    There should be no division between us, just Filipinos who care about our collective future. But I fear that our people’s supply of hope is parched and dry. We need a major refill—bottomless to be exact. Unless we believe in ourselves, we cannot hope for our future.

    That is why we are lucky this morning that our inspirations, the people who give us hope, are here with us. Kayo po ang nagbibigay sa amin ng inspirasyon at pag-asa.

    The Filipino child’s understanding of human nature and human potential, will define his belief in our collective ability to claim our greatness as a nation. We must not let that understanding be limited by the condition that he finds himself in.

    More than one-fourth of our people are living in poverty. What he may see on a daily basis are want and deprivation, domestic violence and abuse, desperation and limitation.

    It is critical that children’s minds are allowed to soar and nourished by ideas rather than scarred by his personal circumstances.

    “I can’t” are powerful words, but reading books can change those words to “I can.” When children experience the power of ideas, read about great lives lived before us, and understand the forces that shape economies and societies, he will start believing and he will start having hope.

    What you’re doing today, providing children with storybooks that will begin their journey of self-discovery and a lifetime of growth, is the best way to build a nation of leaders.

    It will hone our kids to think for themselves, guided by the thought processes of great men and women before them. Reading will enlarge their world, but more importantly their hearts.

    And hopefully, the power of words will not just make them speak intelligently, but also act with integrity, choose with wisdom, and embrace servant-leadership.

    When the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, who was the inspiration behind this Araw ng Pag-basa, Araw ng Pag-asa, was held in solitary confinement during Martial Law, he turned to reading.

    Seven years and seven months would have been unbearable without books to keep him company. But minds can soar free even when we are oppressed physically.

    Jesse and I used to read every night to our three children, and they have turned into bookworms who have a deep regard for service to their nation. Children learn from the words, as well as the timbre of your voice and the warmth of your hugs.

    Imagine the power of this experience when shared with other less-privileged children. Books are one thing, one-on-reading sessions are even more powerful.

    Then imagine…the power of that experience multiplied all over public schools in all provinces of the country. Picture how minds will be empowered and imagination fueled, and hopefully a nation of leaders built.

    We can all do this, if we do this together. Thank you for having me today.

    So we thank Ayala Foundation for coming up with this 100 for 200. These gifts are gifts for a lifetime that will be crucial in inspiring thousands of Filipino children into becoming even more better Filipinos. Kaya maraming maraming salamat po. Just remember, we can all do this if we do this together.

    Magandang umaga muli sa inyong lahat.

    Posted in Speeches on Nov 25, 2016