Over the last couple of weeks I attended two public speaking competitions, as a judge and as a member of the audience. The first was the Voice of Our Youth (VOY) National Impromptu Speaking Competition, and the other was the Volvo Voice of Leadership competition.
The VOY contest is a well-established one, involving as it does, elimination rounds in the provinces conducted under the auspices of various Rotary Club districts. The students generally spoke very well, but what struck me were some observations made by fellow judge Butch Dalisay on the sidelines of the competition.
I asked him how the students compared to, say, his generation and the oratorical contests they participated in. He immediately brought up the Voice of Democracy competitions of his youth, and observed that the schoolchildren of today speak better. But he was troubled by what he felt to be a lack of curiosity about the world on the part of the kids, and said he couldn’t shake off the impression that the otherwise impressive rhetorical ability of the kids masked a lack of depth when it came to issues, and the real world.
For example, even as the kids generally bewailed the depressing lack of genuine service among today’s leaders, and condemned corruption, and violence and the degradation of the environment, Dalisay said he was constantly waiting for the kids to exhort their audience to take up a good book, or read the papers, or watch the news, so as to be better informed of the many issues swirling around them.
The Volvo contest, on the other hand, is the first one ever, and included a camp activity. For my part let me suggest that the parameters of the contest betrayed excessive caution on the part of the sponsors. But then again, being a privately-sponsored contest one really can’t quibble with the overarching limitation of the contest’s definition of leadership:
It advocates the development of youth leaders who shall embody the character of true leadership ” that with both integrity of heart and excellent skills that is rooted in God-centeredness and exemplified by accountable and responsible stewardship ” and who shall articulate the voice of leadership that would move and inspire, innovate and instigate leadership transformation among the youth.
That overarching parameter, I suppose, doesn’t bother schools like the Ateneo de Manila in the least, though for people like me, who are trying to focus the public’s attention on the need for a more secular approach to national problems, chalk up another win for those who advocate religious supremacy in all things.
Contests like these help provide a glimpse into the minds of young people, how they process information, and to what extent they’re armed with the tools necessary to become not just reliable employees, but active citizens. For some time now, I’ve believed that an active civic sense is what needs to be fostered, because we’re paying the price for the manner in which nurturing that civic sense was effectively abandoned by educators.
Here are the questions to which I should like every reader to give his close attention: what life and morals were like; through what men and what policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged. Then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first subsided, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to our present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure.
A couple of years ago, at a forum in Jose Rizal University, former Senate President Salonga, asked by a student what would get the country out of the logjam it’s in, thundered, “what this country needs is not Charter Change but character change!” and received a tremendous ovation in response.
Every seems agreed on that point, but then seems stumped on how to accomplish that change. Organized religion seems to be moving more effectively towards a “God-centered” solution to all things. The best proof of this is the stir which the present Chief Justice himself caused, but that’s for another entry (for now, let me point you to another piece, The scientific imperative).
Anyway, here are the three winners of the Volvo competition, which have helpfully been uploaded to YouTube.
The winner of the competition, John Xavier Valdes of the Ateneo de Manila:
The first runner-up, Regina Isabelle Rananda of Miriam College:
And the second runner-up, Christian Earl Castañeda of LaSalle Greenhills:
They are remarkable performances, each and every one (and so were the rest, on the whole).
Hopefully, in the future, the VOY competition will also consider posting the performances of their winners on line. The winners of the Allied Bank-sponsored, Rotary-led competition, go on to represent the country in public speaking contests overseas.
For now, let me close with a look at the University of the Philippines.
I’ve been following the campaign of one blogger I know, Brian “Bong” Ong, with interest. He and his group belong to one of the groups contesting control of student government. And while Bong and friends may be having colorful clashes with the Left and the Frats, two observations interest me. The first is that none of the competing groups seem particularly attuned to the “real” concerns based on the existing demographics of the student body, and the second is that, as Jester-in-Exile spent today venting on Plurk, the parties are all suspiciously silent on the issue of fraternity violence in U.P.
The run up to the campaign itself was the referendum on the Student Regent, where the Pros and Antis exchanged barbs on blogs (a side issue became one of racism; see Pampublikong Pagpuna kay Anton aka redstudentwill and A Bit of Advice for Activist Groups in General). The Ayes ended up victorious, and even if Blackshama thinks UP is leaving fossilized memes firmly buried in the past, one shouldn’t underestimate the durability of 1960s style sloganeering like Strengthen our Unity! Advance our Struggle for Greater Victories!
Anyway, I’ll leave it to Jester to focus on everyone tiptoeing around the question of fraternity violence, and point, instead, to the issue that apparently concerns most U.P. students at present, and that is the dilemma of the Jumping Jologs (see the bottom part of my July 17, 2007 entry for links concerning the etymology, etc. of Jologs). See Raeining and The Daily Inquibbler as well as bottled brain and rokirode and Eternal Dreams for details on the issue at hand, caught on video by thisiscoy.net:
The Construct I believe, said it best:
I believe it was a defining moment for the UP community. We have always regarded ourselves as the future leaders of the country, the advocates of democracy, and the protectors of our fellow Filipinos especially the masa. Last night was different though. It was clearly us versus them. The educated versus morons. The burgis versus the masa. This criticism shares the same play on semantics of labeling as the April-May 2001 protests with – EDSA versus “the May 1 Siege”. It’s still the same rift between the middle and lower class.
This event, I think, will come under great scrutiny of the University officials. In the advent of crimes committed to members of the academic community by “outsiders (the Veteran’s Bank robbery, the rapes, the thefts and robberies), I think that they will be considering ‘closing’ the University and limiting its access to UP people. Sure, we’ll be like Ateneo or any other cono private campus, but check the demographics today. What’s the difference?
But as for my friend Bong Ong, his party -and all the parties on whom the Jester-in-Exile would rather wish a plague on all their houses- the finer points and the thrill of engaging in collegiate politics and the disputation of political dogmas, has been intruded upon by the outside world.
From radicalchick comes the following, explaining why The Construct has it wrong (and most commenters, beginning with the rambunctious being Punks, and why it was a matter of incompetence on the part of the organizers), and what sets apart U.P. from its neighboring schools:
the whole ‘close the university’ conclusion is dangerous. because we are under a U.P. administration that has consistently been trying to make the University more exclusive to “U.P. people” that is, only U.P. students and employees: imposing a no-i.d.-no-entry policy, putting up gates and closing many of the university’s entrances and exits. and while we presume that this makes things safer for us who own cellphones laptops and mp3 players, it glosses over the fact that in the process, the members of the bigger U.P. community are being disenfranchised. if you are part of any of the communities (Krus na Ligas, Areas 1 2 and 3, the Hardins, among others), if you’ve been allowed to build businesses in this area (the talyers along many of the minor roads, the Bonsai Garden, for example), if you’ve lived here all your life but are not enrolled or employed by the University, why must you be disenfranchised from the spaces of U.P.? this is as much yours as it is theirs who hold I.D.’s and form 5’s.
truth to tell, the blogsphere’s classist consensus can and will be used by the University admin to continue its project of oppressing its own in the name of security. and in the end, all it will do is highlight difference among U.P.’s many sectors, and allow for the U.P.’s ‘educated’ to deem their security as more important than the oppression of so many others who are part of the community.
this community is what makes U.P. different from Ateneo, demographics notwithstanding. it is this community that we learn to be mindful of, that we deal with everyday, that we do become dependent on. we live with them, we breathe the same air, we are in fact one and the same.
i don’t doubt that the punks could’ve started throwing stones at the people inside the Sunken Garden, and that they had the capacity to actually take down those walls. i do not question the truth that many of the people there - and i’m sure they weren’t ALL u.p. students - were scared shitless. but i also don’t doubt that this was the organizers’ fault as Thumbbook has said.
It is the dilemma, therefore, of the culture of the gated community, with all that it implies.