My favorite activist tweep, who can be contacted in Twitter at @ashbulldoglagon resembles neither ash nor bulldog. One day he must enlighten me on how this moniker evolved. Meanwhile, he asked me what challenges I might have for the forthcoming ADDU Samahan (=ADDU Student Government) elections.
Happy to be asked, I tweeted I would respond with this blog entry. Here goes!
Challenge to the future Samahan student leader:
You are called to lead in a University that is Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino.
In this sentence there are seven important words.
The first is “University.” Understand this in its original meaning as a community of scholars and teachers who come together in academic freedom for the pursuit of truth. “Universitas” was originally not an institution, nor even an institutional status. It was a community of flesh-and-blood people hungry for the truth. Too often “university” today is reduced to program requirements that lead to degrees, or the highly complex public organization that allows this. I do not want to bash program requirements and degrees. But a university that is just about churning out program graduates is not worthy of its name. People, including students, must work to maintain their shared thirst for truth – that must go beyond program requirements. They must appreciate that the “academic freedom” which is the sine qua non of higher education is a privilege and responsibility not only of the institution and of teachers, but in its original university context emphatically also of students. It is in academic freedom that students pursue their intellectual passions.
Then the words which describe our University: Jesuit. There are Jesuits around. Some may have noticed too few. But why the university is Jesuit is twofold: first, because it appropriates the mission of the Society of Jesus. Students, hopefully, even without signing up to be Jesuits, appropriate the mission of the Society of Jesus: the service of the Faith, the pursuit of Justice that Faith demands, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and protection of the environment. Second, because it promotes Ignatian spirituality. It invites all within the universitas – the university community – to bond more deeply through Ignatian spirituality.
Catholic. As applied to the university in the light of the Apostolic Constitution on the University of Pope John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, this means the openness in faith to search for truth about all in our relations to God, to nature and to one another. Because of the belief that Jesus is the Way, the Life and the Truth, the Catholic university is convinced that there can be no contradiction between Faith and reason. And, if I might add, since love is the core – or “cor” – of our relationship to God, there is also a conviction in a Catholic university that the discussions and debates that involve reason in the pursuit of truth (even in conversations about RA 10534!) can also be accompanied by love.
Filipino. As Filipinos we find our deepest identity not only in appreciation of all things Filipino, but in accepting the challenge to benefit from and contribute to the global community. Being Filipino in Mindanao is not only about commitment to human development in Mindanao, and about commitment to national development through development in the Philippine nation. It is also about a serious contribution to human development on the globe that in turn supports our development in Mindanao. In taking this perspective, I do not mean to trivialize any of the levels – local, national, or global – in mere conceptual abstractions. I mean the opposite: the challenge of the “Filipino” University must enable its scholars and teachers to bring instruction, research, community service and advocacy to bear concretely on issues pertinent to each level. Today, on the local level, this means: the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro and the Peace and Development Framework for Mindanao (Minda2020), which include respect for our diverse cultures, the sustainable development of our resources, the protection of our river systems, and education for all. On the national level, issues of national leadership, the enactment of meaningful laws, judicial integrity, corruption-free governance, a vigorous economy, meaningful educational reform, the protection of our environment. On the level of global humanity, the possibility of diverse peoples living in peace, the possibility of settling contentious issues through international law instead of international war, the possibility of diverse religions co-existing in shared worship of a God of Compassion as a complement to a healthy secularism.
Those are four words: university, Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino!
The next word, essential for one who is contemplating the Samahan is “lead.” You are called to lead. Those who know the Samahan – and all the work, discussion, sacrifice, exhausting days, sleepless nights, and pain it entails – know that leadership in this context is a service. Of course, as the way things are, it is easy to power trip in the Samahan. But if we are to understand the challenge of association with the Samahan, it must be on the plane of leadership as service. Hopefully, on this plane, when there is knowledge of service well-delivered and contributions to the common weal generously given, there is also possibility of deep and formative joy.
I would like to think that the Samahan leader might be challenged by some of the things that I articulated in my talk on “The ADDU Leader Sui Generis.” Should there be time, I suggest that those running for the Samahan peruse this piece again, copies of which are still available in my office (for free!). One of the key challenges there is that the development of the ADDU leader, which is leadership not only for campus service, but for life, is to develop an abiding commitment to the common good. This means that no matter the political party one belong to and no matter one’s later labors in a private corporation, an association of private corporation, in an NGO or association of NGOs, in an association of professionals, in public office on the local, national or even international levels, you are to lead not to advance private interest (my profit, my comfort, my power, or our good vs. yours) but to advance the common good.
Our Ateneos may have produced many leaders for private interests, but too few for the common good. This is certainly not easy considering the fact that “my common good” is often perceived as different from “your common good.” But this is the challenge. Commitment to the common good must be anchored not in an abstract concept but in a community of people, scholars and teachers, committed to the common good. That is what I think our universitas, Ateneo de Davao, can be.
But we are not yet there. That may be a substantial challenge for student leadership at ADDU.
There are two more important words: “you” and “called.” Let us take them in faith together. You are called to leadership. The “call to leadership” begins from within, but it is inspired from without. One can say, it is God calling from within, sensitizing you to respond appropriately to the call of the common good from without. Did you know that theologians have sometimes referred to the common good as God? Do not take that as a mystification of the common good, allowing it to elide from something very concrete into just a divine metaphor. But take it as a goal to try to find divine truth in achieving a real situation where human beings share a society of meaningful human living, peace and harmony. That is very easily said. In a plural world, explicating what it means is truly challenging. Doing it is even harder.
Leadership in the Samahan and beyond? You are called…