The Greatest Generation

Alex Lacson
Commentary, Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 26, 2011

This phrase was first used to refer to the millions of young Americans who volunteered to fight during World War II. More than half a million young American soldiers died in the battlefields of Europe, Hawaii, Japan, and yes, our Philippines. Theirs was called “the greatest generation” because they fought not only for the liberty of America but for the freedom of the world.

This phrase has made me wonder – when and how do we bring about the greatest generation of Filipinos in our history?

Our country is also at war today – our debilitating war against poverty. Around 26 million of our people go to sleep hungry every night, around 60% or 16 million of whom are children, who are too young and too innocent to fend or fight for themselves.

How do we move our government leaders and other public servants so they may give their best and work very hard every day until they find the solution to our nation’s ills?

How do we persuade our oligarchy and business leaders so they would think first of creating jobs for our people and spreading prosperity in our society, instead of building their wealth and business empires here and abroad?

How do we inspire our youth today so their generation would become the most studious and the most hardworking, and yet the most conscientious of all generations so that, in their time, they would create wealth not only for themselves but also for the many who have none in our society?

How do we rouse our people to become the best that the Filipino can ever be, to become the most honest and patriotic generation of Filipinos of all time, those who would love our people more than any other generation in the past?

But who will make the call? Who will challenge our people?

To bring out such a generation in our history, it is a function of two things.

First, it is a function of leadership, which should set the example in terms of discipline and hardwork, in terms of patriotism and sacrifice. And second, it is a function of education, especially the education of our youth and citizens.

Truly, the President’s call to fight Utak Wangwang, or the culture of abuse, is great and laudable. But such call should not only remain in the government sector, but should be cascaded down to every level of our society, especially to the levels of our youth, teachers and parents. An effective operationalization of such call must be put in place immediately.

One thing that could be done is to make a serious effort to promote a “culture of honor” in our society. Perhaps we can encourage every school in our country, from elementary to college, to adopt an Honor Code, even a simple one like – “The Filipino is a person of honor. We, the youth, do not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do. Let the world know the Filipino by this”. To help students live it, programs could be created around it. And to stress its importance, perhaps a huge stone marker, where such Honor Code is inscribed, could be put at the entrance or auditorium of the school. The great schools abroad have a long tradition of Honor Systems. Our schools should do no less. The biggest problems in our government today and in the past  – graft and corruption, cheating during elections, lying under oath – are all about honor, or the lack of it.

The essence of education must be emphasized early and clearly, that is, for our youth to know what is right from wrong and what is good from bad, and for our youth to prefer the right and the good.

Another thing that could be done is to promote a “culture of brotherhood and nationhood” among our people. This can be done by defining and adopting a clear cultural anchor for our people.  Great countries in history have a cultural identity or anchor. Their people know who they are under the sun. Their cultural anchor becomes their source of strength in this vast world of many cultures.

What about us? What is the cultural anchor of the Filipino?

Perhaps it should be KaBayanihan – which is anchored on Kapatiran and Bayanihan, which literally mean Brotherhood and Community Heroism. Kapatiran and Bayanihan are two old and beautiful traits of the Filipino. These are universal values that would help make a better world for all humanity, regardless of race or religion.

KaBayanihan could and should bring out the kapatid and the bayani in every Filipino, even through small acts of patriotism or heroism. It captures the essence of who the real Filipino is, of what we truly are as a people.

Perhaps KaBayanihan will help draw out the greatest generation of Filipinos in our history.

It is important for our youth to believe in the greatness of the Filipino and in the beauty of our country, so they would grow up someday with so much faith in the Filipino, with so much faith in themselves as a people.

It is crucial for our people, especially our youth, to believe that despite our diversity, we are but one people, one nation, one family.

Truly, the education of the youth is one of the most important things there is in the life of a nation.

Our leadership and education today must aim to draw out the greatest generation of Filipinos from ourselves.

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