Halo Halong Pinoy

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Justice Renato C. Corona Valedictory Address(UST Graduate School)

Valedictory Address at the UST Graduate School

By Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona

Reverend Father Rolando V. de la Rosa, OP, Rector of the University of Santo Tomas; Reverend Father Jose Antonio Aureada, OP, Regent of the UST Graduate School; Dr. Lilian Sison, Dean of the UST Graduate School; Dr. Mary Caroline Castaño,  Faculty Secretary; Dr. Carlos P. Garcia, Director for Graduate Research; honorable members of the Faculty Council Dr. Michael Anthony Vasco, Dr. Maribel Nonato, Dr. Marcela Leus, and Dr. Conrado Montemayor;  distinguished members of the faculty, distinguished guests, parents, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen:
A blessed and joyous good afternoon to all of you.

I join you today not without a bit of nostalgia because, in our 87-year-old ancestral house in Sta. Ana, Manila, where I grew up, proudly hangs my late mother’s UST diploma of more than 70 years ago, inscribed completely in Latin. It indicates that Eugenia O. Coronado graduated from this revered institution with a Bachelor of Commerce, major in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude. I guess there will always abide the child in each and everyone of us and I fondly remember my mother’s stories about her happy days in UST, all centered in the one and only building in the entire campus which housed all the offices and classrooms then. I recall the times more than 50 years ago when she used to take me and my two brothers to the UST Museum and the awe it inspired in us.
Since then, several members of the family have graduated from UST, with one more today.
But there is yet another reason to feel a pardonable sense of pride in this accomplishment: the four Presidents, the three Vice Presidents, and the six Chief Justices of the Supreme Court who graduated from this eminent institution and whose illustrious paths I am extremely privileged to follow.
I speak to you now not as a public official nor as the head of the Judiciary, but as a most humble and grateful student. This great educational institution, the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, the oldest existing university in Asia, and the largest Catholic university in the world in a single campus,  has made it possible for me to realize my dream of appending the hard-earned degree of Doctor of Civil Law to my name.
For that, I wish to express my heartfelt  thanks to the people who  encouraged and supported my quest for knowledge (Father Aureada, Dean Sison, Dr. Alice Decano, and others whose names, though well and fully remembered,  are too many to list here) and to this great institution of learning which nurtured my intellect and further stimulated and satisfied my search for knowledge. No speech will ever suffice to convey the gratitude that abounds in the heart of each and every graduate here today, though sometimes, the deepest human emotions are best left unsaid but simply cradled and treasured in our cors cordis.
Nevertheless, today’s commencement exercises provide a most fitting venue to pour out our gratitude to the university, to the fathers – true sons of St. Dominic who founded the Order of Preachers – and to the selfless members of the faculty. The gratitude will not end today with the closing of the graduation rites but will instead remain and linger in fond memory to the end of our days. This is both a pledge and a commitment: To give ourselves back to God, country, and UST. We can do no less. 
More than the academic degrees and honors, however, our event this afternoon is about education, the principal reason perhaps why we entered graduate school in the first place.
I recall a vignette about the great Justice of the US Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Sometime in 1933, then President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Holmes who was retired. Holmes was reading Plato in the original Greek and when Roosevelt asked him why he was doing so, Holmes, then 92, replied, “Why, to improve my mind!” When the classical Roman poet Horace wrote “Non omnis moriar” (I shall not completely die), he was referring to the human mind, spirit, and soul.
We hold the highest regard for those who tirelessly study and unceasingly seek to learn new things. And we do because we have come to realize that with education come knowledge, understanding, and finally, the holy grail of wisdom and everything that makes us human. As the ancient Greeks aptly put it, nothing human is alien to us.
Education is not simply a matter of ingesting information or of committing facts and figures to memory but rather of forming and stimulating the mind not only to think but also to think correctly, and most important of all, to choose rightly, wisely, and well.
The Lebanese poet-laureate and thinker Kahlil Gibran captured the essence of education in these immortal words. He said: “Learning is the only wealth tyrants cannot despoil... The true wealth of a nation lies not in its gold and silver but in its learning and wisdom and in the uprightness of its sons.” Classical Greece defined the concept of Aréte as an ideal, “the exercise of all a man’s vital powers along the lines of excellence.”
But education will mean nothing if it is directed at the mind alone. The heart has to be involved as well. How many brilliant people, with fancy degrees and titles after their names, have we met with no heart, no conscience,  and no moral values?  There lies the tragedy – all shrewdness and foxiness but without the sine qua non virtues that make us truly and completely human like Godliness, kindness, charity, and love.
At the end of the day, we must accept the fact that our education, in specie aeternitatis, carries an unavoidable moral burden and a grave social responsibility – to God, to our fellowmen, to our country, to our society. That burden and that responsibility are etched in our soul. Our soul is that part of us that sees the dream. Our Thomasian, Dominican education, all throughout the years we spent in UST, was solely geared towards the development of our soul, that it might discern and uncompromisingly pursue the dream which God planted in our hearts. In Proverbs 4:10-15, we are told:
“Listen to me... I have taught you wisdom and the right way to live. Nothing will stand in your way if you walk wisely and you will not stumble when you run. Remember always what you have learned. Your education is your life – guard it well. Do not go where evil men go. Do not follow the example of the wicked...”
Viewed from a larger perspective, there is something else that makes our UST education uniquely beyond the realm of the ordinary. I refer to UST’s remarkable preservation of our rich legacy from Spain. Much more than the sword, the mores, and the language, it was the cross of Christianity that was Spain’s inestimable gift and heritage, so intimately and inextricably woven into our Filipino heart and soul, with UST’s spiritual and intellectual ascendancy at the core center of it all. In a very real sense, the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas is not only the alma mater of us, its graduates, but also the alma mater of the Philippines as a nation and as a people.
As Thomasians, we take much delight in recalling that it was Pope Leo XIII who granted UST the formal title of “Pontifical University” on September 17, 1902, the second university in the world that was conferred such title and recognition, next only to the Gregorian University in 1873. In 1947, Pope Pius XII bestowed on UST the title of “Catholic University of the Philippines.” Two Popes have personally visited UST, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.
I would like to end by calling to mind the story of the Italian Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron of all Catholic schools, who was given the privilege, before his death, of seeing a magnificent vision of the Blessed Trinity in perfect glory and splendor, and which he had brilliantly written about in his monumental work Summa Theologica. After seeing the vision, he threw his life’s entire work into the fireplace but it was, fortunately for us, retrieved and saved by a fellow friar. It was later used as the foundation of our Catholic, scholastic education in succeeding centuries. St. Thomas Aquinas had despaired that his treatise on the Blessed Trinity consisted of mere human thoughts and words, and did not in the least bit do justice to what he had fully perceived in his vision.
A final word to my fellow graduates. As we go our separate ways today, keep in mind always that education does not end when we leave the secure halls of UST. In fact, it should not even end at all for our life-long journey of discovery leading us back to our ultimate destination – our Father’s home – only starts from there.
Thank you and a pleasant good afternoon again to all of you.

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