It was an honor to be given the opportunity to address the National Federation of Filipino-American Association members during the welcome plenary session in their recent national convention held in Detroit Michigan, August 2-5, 2012. I have never envisioned at my age of 18 that I would be privileged to be seated in the podium with the NaFFAA President Ed Navarro, Consul General Leo Herrera Lim and Philippine Director of Tourism Vernie Morales to speak about solidarity. I also met the Philippine Ambassador to the USA, Jose Cuisia Jr, the keynote speaker at the event as well as many accomplished civic leaders around the country and internationally.
I have composed articles, poems and speeches since I was nine, but there are still subjects of great importance to me that I find myself at a loss for what to say. Maybe because the passion that I have for a specific topic – that I want to lend to my writing is a bit overpowering or maybe it is because the significance of what is at stake demands that I be ultra careful in finding the right words.
In the few weeks prior to the conference, I sent out articles about how I view SOLIDARITY— which was the theme of the conference. They were published in several newspapers including this newspaper. I wrote those articles because I know it is an important subject -that may appear simple to talk about, but to me, is very complicated. It required a lot of dissecting and then re-assembling in my head.
More time was required than I was allotted to speak at the conference.
In one of my earlier articles, I talked about the invisible bonds that connect us to each-other. How we are all linked through our ancestry, our humanity, and our patriotism to our place of birth. But I believe those bonds only manifest themselves in noteworthy ways through communication of shared interest, of common goals – and the ability of two individuals, two groups, and the older and younger generation to effectively talk to one another.
In my speech, I spoke about universal languages any group can adopt. A warm smile and shake of a hand that says “welcome to this conference”. Our ability to let somebody in on and observe the successes of group members or empathize with their sorrows and grief go a long way towards cultivating a culture of oneness. I believe that we need to do more of that with our fellow human beings, and with our friends and family.
I believe that no one’s beliefs should be treated as if they don’t have value, no one’s passionate response should be ignored, and no-one should feel left out of the group to which they play a vital role. Instead, we should endeavor to reach a compromise that incorporates some, if not all, of everybody’s most salient points. I believe that we should always walk away with a healthy respect even for the individuals whose ideas we could not quite settle with.
For example, young members of one’s community may share a flurry of excited voices and harbored opinions. But adult members should not just dismiss these as childish. Conciliation and negotiation are stuff of the real world and real life – skills that young people should be learning how to use effectively if they are to prepare for leadership roles someday.
Any group, including NaFFAA, needs to get the youth talking to each other about things they have in common, even if it is unrelated to the group’s mission. That way, you are building a network that will eventually allow that group to pull these youth in — in the future.
I also believe that we should look at information technology as an important tool in building solidarity. I believe that money raised and invested in technology is worth it. Technology can significantly help in communicating with and empowering its members which are important to building cohesion and unity.
I believe that we should also keep in mind that within a group, there is enormous diversity or differences – in age, upbringing, culture or behavior norms, political views, etc. I know because I have relatives that are rich and poor; scholars and developmentally delayed, conservative and liberal, sociable and introverted, born leaders and born followers – but the important thing is that no matter who the person is – that we treat everyone with dignity and respect – including the younger generation.
Finding solidarity within a family, a group, a nation, a race – it means acknowledging the fact that the ground will not always be… well, solid. It is only by taking and giving that we will stop ourselves from hurtling over one edge or another. To nurture a culture of solidarity, we will have to absorb new thoughts and may need to let go of some old ones. I believe that it is important to build a culture that is responsive, flexible, adaptive, and also ready to accommodate chaos as an opportunity to improve and make a better, more solid community, society, family.
I thank and give honor to those groups that give young people a voice, an opportunity for their thoughts and ideas to be heard.