Mayor Vico to graduating Ateneans: ‘Lundagin mo, baby’ 2
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto addresses Ateneo de Manila University’s Class of 2021. Backround photo from ADMU website

Mayor Vico’s inspiring, challenging message to new graduates: “Dream audaciously, act courageously.”

The young mayor spoke to fellow Atenistas this weekend to tell them: “If we truly aim to be men and women for others, it will never be easy.”
JEROME GOMEZ | Oct 26 2021

“Dream audaciously and act courageously.” That’s the challenge Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto posed to the 2021 graduates of Ateneo De Manila University’s Loyola Schools. The 32-year old public official found himself speaking, albeit virtually, to graduating Ateneans Sunday in their commencement ceremony. An Ateneo alum himself, the Mayor spoke about the difficult challenges facing the world today while saying there is no other generation ready to face those challenges than today’s youth for whom boldness comes naturally. 

Sotto began his speech by keeping things light, recalling the day he was a graduating student himself 10 years ago—his course was BA in Political Science—sitting with his batchmates at the Ateneo high school covered courts, armed with a puzzle book which he brought “sakaling mainip sa programa.” He also joked that he might be the first commencement speaker in the history of the school who, while looking all formal in his stately barong, was actually wearing shorts as lower half of his outfit. 

After the Tito jokes—or is it Vic’s? JK—Mayor Vico got down to business. He acknowledged how every graduate has that feeling of uncertainty, puzzled as to what will happen next. “And if we felt that in 2011, I can just imagine how you must feel like graduating in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.

He laid down the realities of the present: a challenged economy, struggling businesses, and how the pandemic has revealed so much of the bad in people, “the corruption ingrained in our democracies.” It is clear, he said, that we badly need a change, and that they—referring to his audience—are the “new generation of catalysts for the change we dream of for our country.”  

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Mayor Vico challenged the graduates to avoid pointing fingers, but instead to first look at themselves. “Ask the question: kung magiging leader nga ako, magiging anong klaseng leader ako?” he said, adding that it’s easy to blame others but it’s better to look inwards and ask if we are part of the problem. 

Bilang mga Atenista, madalas natin kinakanta: ‘Down from the hill, down to the world go I,’” the Mayor said, quoting from his alma mater’s anthem before acknowledging that while each member of his audience possesses that fiery excitement to introduce changes in the world—he also warned them: “Sooner than later, you will be tested.” Should their boss ask them to bribe a public official, will they do it? Should they open their own businesses, will they declare their honest income to the government and pay the right amount of taxes? 

“If we truly aim to be men and women for others, it will never be easy,” Mayor Vico said. 

Despite this, however, there is much to hope for. “Looking from a wider perspective, no matter how bad things seem at any given moment, we can look at the trajectory of our history and say that things are indeed getting better. Let’s take a look at the statistics on education, poverty, and we will see that things have generally gotten better, at least decade by decade, with very few exceptions,” Mayor Vico added. 

“Even better news is that your generation has the unique opportunity and place in history because—and this is why my hope remains high—no generation in history has had the tools to succeed and effect change  that you have at your disposal today. Your generation has the potential to make changes faster than any generation has done before. 

“At the palm of your hands, you have nearly instant access to more information than Albert Einstein could have possibly seen in his lifetime. You’re more exposed to different perspectives, viewpoints, and philosophies from all around the world compared to Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill or other great leaders of the past. The organization building that took Andres Bonifacio months or even years to do can now be possible in unbelievably short periods of time.”

Throughout his more than 14-minute speech, the young politician was his characteristic serious self, very rarely breaking into a joke, or something that approaches pa-cute—but without coming off as threatening, although maybe just a little demanding. Just kidding.

The Mayor acknowledged early on that speeches like his are probably the last thing the kids will remember—school life being largely memorable for the times spent with friends, teachers and other school personalities. 

Still, he posed the challenge to his audience: “And so as you take on new responsibilities and roles of leadership, as you take your idealism and head down from the hill, I urge you to dream audaciously and act courageously—for yourself, your family, for the communities you belong to and for our country.”

He advised them to never forget the value of listening to others and respecting other people’s opinions. “A time to fight will never come before a time to listen,” he said. He told the students to actively seek out perspectives outside of one’s echo chamber. To be aware that while technology has the capacity to pull people together, it can also create divisiveness when placed in abusive hands. “I’m not saying to be neutral,” he said. “We shouldn’t be. We should always act and speak in accordance with our values.” 

In the end, he reiterated his complete trust in the capabilities of his audience. “Batch 2021, buong buo ang tiwala namin sa inyo. As the next leaders of our country, I know that you will be at the forefront of massive breakthroughs and triumphs in strengthening the rule of law, in breaking down decades-old practices of injustice, in ultimately ushering in  a more prosperous, just and inclusive society, and all at the pace much faster than previous generations thought would be possible.” 

Before he wrapped up, Mayor Vico said he hopes the challenges he mentioned will not be deemed as burden but will be considered an extraordinary opportunity to be seized. “At gaya nga ng sabi ni Father Ferriols,” he said, referencing the beloved Ateneo Philosophy teacher who passed away this year, “Lundagin mo, baby.”