Commencement Ceremony for the University for Peace Asian Peacebuilders Scholarship Program

Manila, Philippines

Honorable … Department of Foreign Affairs; Father Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J., President of Ateneo de Manila University; … Vice President of Ateneo de Manila University; Dr. Jose Cruz, Dean of the School of Social Sciences of Ateneo de Manila University; Mr. John Maresca, Rector of the University for Peace; distinguished guests, friends, and the graduating class of 2009.

It gives me great pleasure to attend today’s graduation ceremony.

To the 20 outstanding students who are graduating today, I offer my sincere congratulations.

You have spent the past 19 months preparing yourselves to serve society. For this, I would like to express my deepest respect and admiration.

For over three decades I have been working in the field of international cooperation. Even now, more than one third of my year is spent traveling abroad. I want to see how our work is impacting our beneficiaries and to encourage governments to keep supporting our initiatives.

I believe that there is a limit to what a group of individuals in an air-conditioned conference room can do. In my view, real problem solving occurs in the field. Therefore, I have made it my duty to keep in touch with the reality on the ground and see for myself what is going on.

As one who experienced war at a young age, I have always aimed for a more peaceful and secure world. Through my encounters with so many people affected by war and conflict during the course of my work, my desire to realize this dream has become stronger than ever.

However, today the world remains in turmoil. Every day, my heart aches when I see news of hostilities around the world. Asia is no exception. We face many serious conflicts in our region, both those between states as well as internal struggles.

To help resolve these disputes, The Nippon Foundation invests in the development of human resources – people with exceptional abilities capable of building and sustaining peace in Asia.

I attended the commencement ceremony for the first graduating class last year. Many of those graduates now occupy positions in government, international organizations and NGOs in the field of peace building and international cooperation.

Based on my experience, you have to be good at your job in order to be successful and long lasting in this line of work. But it also takes a great deal of passion, perseverance and a sense of continuity. What do I mean by this?

First, you must be passionate about what you do. Second, you must persevere in what you do, and avoid choosing the easy option when a harder but better solution presents itself. And third, you must respect the fact you are part of an ongoing process, and think long term.

You are all role models. Take pride in your work. Your conduct will encourage others to follow in your footsteps. Make it a habit to spread understanding, not hatred. Hope, not despair. And peace, not violence.

The bonds you have formed with your fellow students will be a valuable asset when you start work. Furthermore, as alumni of The Nippon Foundation group, you are now a part of an amazing worldwide network of over 30,000 individuals. All are striving for a common vision: to make this world a better place.

I believe I have a duty to provide the basis upon which individuals can realize their full potential. So I give you my word that I will help you achieve your potential. And in the process, let us work to build a more peaceful, secure and prosperous Asia and make the world a better place.

In closing, I would like to thank my friends at the University for Peace and Ateneo de Manila University for sharing our dream and working tirelessly to make this program a reality. I would especially like to thank Dr. Jose Cruz for giving such strong support in establishing and nurturing the second campus here at Ateneo. Your unwavering faith in the program has brought forth another 20 outstanding graduates.

I look forward to working together to support the students of this program, and to doing our part in promoting peace and development in the region.

Thank you.