A Selection from: Our Lady of Fatima University Graduation Ceremony Speech,
November 29, 2019


First, I would like to congratulate each and every one of you on your graduation. It is a testament of what you can achieve and a promise of greater things to come your way! Congratulations! 

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” 

Perhaps what Mr. Einstein is implying is that we should consider how everything is a blessing and that we should always be thankful! A grateful and humble heart will go a long way toward a fulfilling and successful life. On this note, let’s give our much appreciation to all your parents, and professors. They are the ones we should be thankful for. They are the ones who worked a miracle to get you here! 

Speaking of miracles, with what’s happening today in the world, Global trade wars, People not getting along because of differences, traffic, earthquakes, water shortage, typhoons, climate change in some way, it’s a miracle we are here today. But you see, many people tend to take blessings for granted. And we tend to magnify what’s wrong. But I think what Einstein is also trying to say is that maybe we should consider looking at the bright side of things. 

Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “It’s not the things that upset us, it’s our judgment about things.” What he meant was that the power to decide what we do with our struggles, is inside us. So, it’s ok to feel sad when we face problems or misfortunes, but we can manage our emotions and turn our situation into something positive.

I understand it won’t be easy, yes.I know because I have been a pessimist all my life. Some of my family and colleagues would call me “Mr. Nega” because I will be able to find a fault in any situation, and they will stress me to no end. Did you know there came a point in time when I got so burned out I had to be admitted to the hospital for days due to hypertension and lack of sleep? And I said to myself, I can’t live like this. So, I searched for help and my doctors and my boss recommended the same prescription: relax EJ. But I said how can I relax if there are hundreds of problems we have to solve? Hoping I can follow through with their recommendation, I read self help books, searched online for additional help. It is from there that I discovered meditation. I stumbled on an app that introduced me to the basics of mindful meditation: the awareness of the breath, the mind, the body, the focus on the present. After a series of exercises, I realized that worries and anxieties can be processed; that we can train ourselves to steer away from the endless distractions and learn how to react better to what happens to us. There are many videos and apps that give lessons on meditation. You can try them out. 

More importantly, it helped me remember the duality of control: that there are things that we have no control over and there are things we can do something about. You see, a lot of people suffer from depression today. For a time, I too suffered from it. And I think one of the reasons at least based on my experience is because we get so overwhelmed by the things not in our control. We should learn to let go of them and focus only on what we can influence. Perhaps some of you have heard of a nice prayer that talks about this. I pray this all the time. It goes: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

So, every time you’re faced with some problem or misfortune, instead of asking “Why is this happening to me” try to ask, “What can I do to make the situation better?” 

Because you see, spending our time worrying about things or wallowing in misery and self-pity for too long is going to be a waste of time. And as we all know, time is gold. But actually, according to inspirational speaker, Mr. Francis Kong, not only is time more valuable than gold, it’s irreplaceable. You see, when we can work our way to getting our lost gold back. But when we waste time, it’s lost forever. We are all young. There are lots of years ahead of us, perhaps some more than others. Regardless, instead of spending our time in worry, let’s spend it making the most of the time and the life given us. 

Just like in the song Seasons of Love from the Musical, Rent, it says there are 525,600 minutes in a year, and it asks how do we measure a life in a year? Let’s make each minute and moment count. Let’s measure them in love. 

Today, a chapter in your life closes and a brand new one is turning. They say, you can be whatever you want to be. That’s true. But whatever you do, I hope you do everything for love – Loving God and loving others as yourself, and doing everything for love is the way we will give our lives full meaning. 

Consider what Mr. Winston Churchill said about giving life meaning. He said, “What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place.” 

So whichever path and career you take: I implore you, in your own little way, try to make our world a better place for others. And when I say in your own little way, I meant your respective jobs or profession. May it be treating the sick, creating an advertising campaign, developing an app, managing a restaurant, the useful thing you are going to do for other people, is going to be, what you are. So, embrace it and strive to be very good at it. And the only way to be good at your job is: 1) to stick to your principles and 2) to keep improving. 

Firstly, stick to your principles. Focus on your life centered on God and on your principles. Don’t center your life on money and pleasure. If there’s one core aspiration you’ll commit to, I hope it’s to being persons of integrity. If there’s one thing Jesus hated when he was here on earth was being a hypocrite. Build and keep your life’s reputation with unshakable integrity. So always try to choose what’s right over what’s easy. Always look at the nobler purpose than material gain. Seek what’s good and fair for others. Keep them from harm. Always be true. 

One of God’s teachings is to make the most out of our talents. So, we owe it to him and others to use these talents and improve on them. How can we improve? Be humble and open to changes. Always be eager to learn more. If there’s one thing your school life taught you, it’s this – learning how to learn. So treat every day as a learning opportunity. Surround yourself with people who support your growth. Find good mentors and role models, especially in these early years of your career. If you must, endure difficult superiors. Usually, it’s the difficult bosses who are the ones who bring out the best in you. So endure them. But avoid bad influence. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Improve on your own terms. Compare only with your past self. Be compassionate to yourself when you fail. It’s okay. The important thing is to learn from it and commit to be better. Above all, I think the most important way to improve is through discipline.

You can forget all advice I mentioned earlier, but don’t forget about Discipline. For me discipline is the conscious and constant effort to building good habits. And if you build good habits, you will build yourself a good character. Michael Jordan did not become a superstar by pure talent alone. He and his team established and maintained a rigid routine of practice. Discipline is the system that will help you lead to growth, improvement and success. So don’t focus on your goal to become a board passer or getting promoted and instead focus on building the discipline of diligently studying every day, learning something new every day, Confront all the things that are inconvenient for you (like exercise, practice, eating a balanced diet) Always strive to get out of your comfort zone. Commit to improving on a day to day. Here’s a key: focus on small wins. Small changes will create big ripple effect of improvement in the long term.  Hopefully, discipline will be a lifelong journey of you conquering all your “uncomfortables” and bringing out a better you. 

And always be ready to confront your biggest enemy to self-improvement, yourself. You will tell yourself plenty of excuses to delay self-improvement. For example, you will focus on your critics: their tone, their person instead of the criticism. You will be tempted to focus on others: waiting for others to change. Piece of advice: don’t wait for the world to change. Don’t procrastinate. You can start now. There will be plenty of moments that your ego will question why should you improve. So watch out for yourself. Suppress your ego, remain humble and remind yourself of the never-ending need to improve. By committing to a journey of self-discipline and humility, you will be able to fight your demons and actually grow. 

All this talk of change, discipline, self-improvement, loving others. Seem very challenging if not impossible. With many problems, the external and internal pressures, other people going it for themselves, it’s going to be hard, but it’s doable. Take courage in the face of obstacles.

And one of the best sources of courage is to keep praying to God. He is the one who provides for us. And He is the one who has been with us and will be with us in this challenging but fulfilling life ahead. 

2019 is ending. You see, it’s not only a new year, but a new decade is dawning. It’s full of opportunities awaiting you. But you need to rise up, take courage, know that God is with you. 

As Rev. Phillips Brooks said,  Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks! Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a MIRACLE.”

Thank you, Congratulations and God Bless!

Edward Joseph M. Vitug              
Simplicio Gamboa Sr. Foundation, Inc.