Student Address to Graduates
Devotional or Speech given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii
April 13, 2013
Elder Maynes, Brother Christensen, President Wheelwright, honored guests, faculty, family, friends, and my fellow graduates, Aloha and mabuhay! It is such an honor to be here with you today.
Hawaii is a paradise. We are blessed to be in such a beautiful place. The coconut trees, the beaches, and the relaxing atmosphere… It is reminiscent of an isolated island in the southern part of the Philippines called Portlamon. It is where my father grew up in. However, unlike Hawaii with its promising economy and opportunities for educational growth, living in the beautiful island of Portlamon was more like a scourge for my father.
The main source of livelihood in Portlamon is fishing and harvesting copra. For generations, men and women were trained at a young age to carry on in these trades. There were no other opportunities on the island.
Growing up in this environment, my father longed for a different life. He desired for opportunities to grow and progress. He knew that in order to achieve a different future for himself, he had to get a good education. He knew that opportunities lay beyond the shores of the island Portlamon.
As a young boy, he sold ice pop and candy treats to earn money for schooling. His family could not afford to financially support his dreams, so my father found ways to finance his education through hard work and sacrifice.
He walked several miles going to and walking back from school because he could not afford to pay for a ride home. During these long walks, his only companions were his dreams of the future and an old tin can. He would kick the tin can in front of him one foot after another as he slowly made his trip home. By doing this, he hardly noticed the distance he was required to walk to reach his destination. This and other heart-wrenching experiences marked my father’s journey towards success.
After many years of sacrifice, my father earned his degree in Civil and Sanitary Engineering at one of the prestigious schools in the Philippines. After passing the board exam, he became a licensed civil engineer. My father’s story is a reflection of having a dream and working at it.
I am grateful for the feelings my father had on that small, isolated island that stirred in him the desire to achieve a different future for himself. I am grateful for his perseverance to realize those dreams.
Literally, we are all on an isolated island here in Hawaii. What we can accomplish beyond the shores of this beautiful island is left to our vision of the future and our determination to accomplish our dreams.
It is my hope that our future will hold the fulfillment of the prophecy made by President David O. McKay. During the groundbreaking service for the Church College of Hawaii over 58 years ago, he prophesied that this school would produce “noble men and women ... who cannot be bought or sold, men who will scorn to violate truth, genuine gold. ... They'll be leaders. Not leaders only in this island, but everywhere.”
If we could go back to that island in the Philippines 50 years ago, I wonder if that young boy ever thought that he would be able to send one of his daughters to an international school to gain an education. I stand before you here today as a witness that in our quest for a better future, lives are inevitably blessed. I am just one of the many who were blessed by my father’s accomplishments. Because of the education and training he gained, many of his extended family members are now taking advantage of opportunities he has opened up for them. His nephews and nieces are now going to prestigious schools in the Philippines. Many have long since left the island and are now making a mark elsewhere. My father is a leader.
I share with you my father’s story with the hope that you will have the courage and determination to fulfill your own dreams and, by doing so, bless the lives of others, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.