The following is the transcript of the Response on Behalf of the Graduates, delivered by Nathan Eliezer Bayasen (ISA, ’17) during the afternoon of the 179th Commencement Exercises, held at the Philippine International Convention Center last June 17th:
“Br. President Raymundo B. Suplido FSC, Chancellor Dr. Gerardo C. Janairo, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr., esteemed administrators, De La Salle Brothers, Professors, beloved parents, and my fellow graduates, good afternoon.
And to my parents who do not know that I would speak today, I just wanted to say “Hi, love you!”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
We all have something in mind of what we want to do as we enter the real word. We all think we have it figured out. We plan our dream job, our dream car, our dream house, and our dream girlfriend/boyfriend.
But one day, the real world will hit us like lighting. We realize that the path we took is not exactly what we planned. Our plans will fail and we will think it’s the end of the world.
But we thought wrong. Because the beauty of life is not only the things we plan, but also the unexpected events we experience.
And out of these unpredictable experiences will we discover our calling, our passion.
My name is Nathan Bayasen and I believe that our failed plans are simply a stepping stone to something better.
I grew up in the deserts of Burkina Faso, West Africa. My amazing parents were missionaries there. And during the 16 years I lived there, I have encountered and even lived through the most devastating effects of poverty.
Do you remember that photograph taken by Kevin Carter? Where a vulture was ready to pounce on a starving Sudanese girl?
I saw these things first hand. Children starving to death. I experienced famine, where my family ate caterpillars for dinner. And a cup of clean fresh water was all people wanted for Christmas.
As such, I had grand ambitions.
I had everything planned out. I would get into Columbia University, one of the top 10 universities of the world, become the next Ban Ki-Moon, and save the world from the clutches of poverty.
But it was not meant to be.
My world shattered when I found out that my dream school, Columbia University, rejected me. Heartbroken, I thought I was a failure. Frustrated, I told myself: “If I couldn’t get into Columbia, how then could I change the world?”
Thankfully, fate had different plans.
One day, I talked with a Filipino diplomat who visited the Filipino community in Africa.
I told him about my failure and asked him what I should do.
What he told me next changed my life. He said, “Go back to the Philippines, go back to your roots. Your country needs people like you.”
And here I am standing before you today, proudly graduating from our beloved De La Salle University.
Who would have thought that a Filipino boy who grew up in Africa would end up at La Salle? Some people may think that I’m here because I failed to get into Columbia. But NO.
I am here standing before you today because even if our plans fail, there are greener pastures on the other side.
Don’t get me wrong. My Lasallian journey was not all about green pastures. Like everyone sitting in this room, we had to endure countless shares of failures in our #RoadtoPICC.
We all entered into the school with great ambitions. After all, we were frosh – we had no idea what we were getting into.
We are going to be a consistent Deans Lister.
We are going to join many orgs and become the officers and become president.
We are going to meet “THE ONE.”
And there are some lucky enough to achieve all of these ambitions. Kudos to you.
But most often than not, most Lasallians will take a different route.
As we hit our major subjects, our CGPA will slowly go down. The subjects we get become tougher. The professors will challenge us to the bone. A 1.0 doesn’t sound that bad.
As we join many organizations, we realize that we we are not the best. It is near impossible to balance our responsibilities in our org, our academics, and a vibrant social life.
As for THE ONE, our beloved, they just wants to be friends.
It is easy to give up in the face of failure. It is easy to say you are incompetent, inferior, a disappointment. But the reason I believe DLSU was one of the best decisions I made is because of the experiences I had regardless of my failures.
As a member of the La Salle Debate Society, I have often felt that my efforts were not worth it. I would train six times a week, three to nine hours every day, reading five different newspapers. But when tournament season comes, I lost more than I won.
It was heartbreaking, frustrating. You know the feeling. You actually want to achieve something. You put your heart and soul into it. But it’s not enough.
And the pressure is there, the pressure to impress. The pressure to make your parents proud. The pressure of being perfect.
But what the Lasallian journey showed is that there are hidden gems of learnings in all our times of failure that help us become better and stronger people. Instead of dwelling on our failures, we have to look at what we gained.
Yes, I was a heartbroken debater. But when you put a heartbroken debater, thesis mate, depressed friend or any other person next to another equally if not more heartbroken, depressed person, something interesting happens. A bond forms. You become stronger. And unlike the La Salle MyWifi, you gain a connection, family. We gained lots of family in DLSU. In our road of failures, there will be a lot of people who will look down on you. But we should focus on the people who will be there for you.
We gained strength–the ability to push through hardships, the tears, the failures. Strength to power through hell week, clutch that final paper, finish that final project, and still have time to Happy Thursday. Strength is in persevering. We have definitely persevered to reach where we are today.
We gained conviction–to never back down when everybody is pressuring you to be someone you are not, or to have an opinion you do not agree with. I am glad that at DLSU, we are taught to think critically. I had a group discussion in class where a Christian, Catholic, Muslim, and atheist came together and talked about their beliefs. No one tried to convince each other they were right or wrong. We sat together and genuinely wanted to learn about the other’s culture and beliefs. Isn’t that nice? Especially in the Philippines today? Where we can still act civil regardless of our differences and respect one another? Yes. We have conviction.
We gained SOLID Professors–SOLID, meaning, we wouldn’t mind getting a grade of 2.0 and below. SOLID, because these professors truly cared. SOLID because, in the words of one of my professors, they are passionate to corrupt the minds of the youth… ehem, inspire, they are passionate to inspire the minds of the youth.
Surely, we have gained a lot in our Lasallian journey. And now here we are, at the gates of the real world.
After three years, some four, some five, and some reaching for the honors of magna, magna-nine years na, we will all come to realize na “matanda na talaga ako.” This is the final stage.
As we journey into the world unknown, let us not forget where we came from. We came from a school that encourages us not only to become achievers for God and country, but to serve those around us.
Wherever we end up, remember our calling to serve. Whether we end up in the corporate world, in the government, or go abroad, lets never forget the core Lasallian principles.
Faith. Service. Communion.
Helping a coworker, consoling a heartbroken friend, buying food for your stressed out office mate, or even joining an advocacy. It can be the little things.
As for me, I am still ambitious. I still want to save the world. But I know that the future is also unknown.
I plan to join an NGO and maybe one day work for the United Nations or build my own NGO.
But these are just plans. We never know what is in store in the future.
The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a misguided question. It assumes that everything you plan will work out perfectly. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is “What do you want to do when you fail?” Do you give up? Or do you find meaning and purpose in your failure?
Let’s be like the great philosopher Dory, the blue fish in Finding Nemo who, when faced by the dark abyss, sang “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. What do we do, we swim.”
As I end my speech, even though it’s not a Thursday today, let me raise this imaginary red plastic cup as a toast to you, graduates of 2017. We did it! But it ain’t over yet.
Animo La Salle!”