Professionals for Others

Professionals for Others
Ronnie v. Amorado, Ph.D

Graduation Address delivered during the Commencement Exercises for the Graduate and Law Schools of the Ateneo de Davao University on April 29, 2006. 

Father president, Fr. Antonio S. Samson, SJ; Father Rector, Fr. Albert E. Alejo, SJ; and our distinguished commencement speaker, Reverend Fr. Bienvenido F. Nebres, SJ; other members of the Jesuit community, the deans and faculty of the graduate school, parents and guests, and to my fellow graduates --- good morning, maayong buntag, sa-was-dee!

Today we celebrate a graduation that offers full of elation, as well as some lamentation. 

We are rightfully elated after enduring those 3 to 5 years of graduate studies and law studies. We are fittingly in jubilation for being able to finish our degrees. We are fully triumphant for hurdling all the obstacles of schooling while working at the same time.

But we also celebrate with some lamentation on the ground. We lament not because we are doubtful of our capacity. We lament not because we are reluctant of our profession. We lament not because we are disinclined of our roles in society. We lament because of all the dilemmas --- that hound the professionals in the country.

Today is a distinct celebration. We are not the elementary graduates who explore their new campus in high school. Neither are we the high school graduates who search for their college courses, nor the college graduates who seek out to start a career.

We are the graduates who pursue further studies to hone our professions. We expand our horizons and explore the uncharted. 

We are professionals and specialists. We are the technicians and the experts on the field. We are the craftsmen. We are the practitioners.

Fellow graduates, our graduation has underscored our professional responsibilities. As professionals, we are imbued with duty – because our professions call us to a particular vocation in society.

But as we face up to the challenge of our professions, we are seriously held back -- by the many dilemmas that accompany our graduation, the same dilemmas that are the source of our lamentations.

These are my own dilemmas.

We often hear of brain drain --- which is more of an affliction than an opportunity for the Philippines.  Hundreds of professionals leave the country and deprive our countrymen with professional services. Faced with a bleak future, many of us professionals are compelled to seek the green pastures.

There is also the so-called occupational invasion --- which leads to the commodification of professions. Before, we hear only of teachers becoming baby-sitters abroad. Now, we also hear of doctors and lawyers becoming nurses. The vocation is fast giving way to the commodity of profession.

And for those who are left behind, many are involved in professional malpractices and malfeasance. We are disillusioned, even utterly disgraced, when we hear of professionals involved in corruption. Not only in the practice of profession, but in democratic exercises like elections. Professional ethics is fast eradicating.

Most important of all, when all these dilemmas combine, we also face the threat… the pain… the shame of irrelevance.

We become irrelevant when we lose the sense of mission. We become irrelevant when we astray from our professional duty. We become irrelevant when we become instruments of decadence and depravity.

We become more irrelevant when others lose respect to our profession. And we become most irrelevant when we ourselves lose the same respect.

All these, we are undeserving when we can do nothing about our situation, about the ills that afflict the nation. And we become unworthy when we are unable to create impact.

I offer no immediate solution, only practical exhortation.

As we celebrate our graduation, let us put ourselves to task. Let us help bring back the professional ideals. Let us go back to the meaning of our profession --- and savor the virtues of our occupation.

My fellow graduates, let this be our challenge. I call upon our name and honor. Be upright. Let us all behave.

Let us not use our professions for selfish ends. Let us not enrich ourselves at the expense of the poor. Let us not cheat on our fellowmen. Indeed, the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was acerbic to describe --- that all "professions are conspiracies against the laity!"

Let us not cheat during elections. Let us not destroy the environment. Let us not violate traffic regulations. Let us not be unfaithful to our spouses. And let us not throw garbage on the streets. I think the secret of good leadership and good governance lies on following simple instructions.

Let us not also disrespect our parents and children. Let us not embarrass our school. Let us not dishonor our country.

Let us become the bearers of truth, never peddlers of lies. Ang ating bansa ngayon ay uhaw na uhaw sa katotohanan.

Let us strive to be relevant. We have learned and gained from schooling, we are morally obliged to return them back to those who are in need.

We are not just men and women for others. The meaning of our profession lies on becoming professionals for others. As professionals for others, we are called not only to serve, but also to become role-models.

To serve is to become God’s instruments to help those who are in need, the majority of our people who are deprived and forsaken.

As role-models, we are duty-bound --- to be professionals with integrity. The English political scientist Junius exalted: "the integrity of men is to be measured by their conduct, not by their professions!"

Thus, can our school be proud of us? Hindi kaya tayo ikahihiya ng ateneo? Hindi kaya tayo ikahihiya ng ating mga pamilya? Hindi kaya tayo ikahihiya ng ating bansa? Ug labaw sa tanan, dili ba kaha ta ikaulaw sa atong Ginoo?

In the midst of all these dilemma, let us be firm and steadfast. Adhere to a sacred oath of honor, a personal code of conduct. Let us develop and live with a sense of ethics and propriety.

As I end my exhortation, allow me to share my favorite verses from the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Not gold but only men
Can make a nation great and strong
Men who, for truth and honor’s sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men, who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others shy.
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

Congratulations fellow graduates! Mung-pai-kang-na! Heads up, and Godspeed!