Speech of President Garcia on the occasion of the conferment on him of the degree of Doctor of Humanities by Xavier University, on August 27, 1958

PRESIDENT GARCIA’S SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONFERMENT ON HIM OF THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF HUMANITIES BY XAVIER UNIVERSITY, ON AUGUST 27, 1958, IN CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY

YOUR EXCELLENCY, REVEREND FATHERS,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

I THINK I would be less than human if the honor that has just been conferred upon me this evening, did not make me feel proud and grateful at once.

There are many reasons why to be the first recipient of an honorary degree from Xavier University, is a distinction I am proud to-carry and grateful to receive. One of them, in passing, is that it is Very gratifying to receive this kind of degree for a change, at a time when some critics are overly anxious to give my administration a “third degree.”

I am sure you will not blame me if I consider the kind of degree that Xavier University gives, more welcome than the other type as a source of inspiration and encouragement to serve God and my country to the best of my ability.

I therefore wish to thank the authorities of Xavier University, especially Father Francisco Araneta, the President, for conferring this honorary doctorate upon me. I appreciate it all the more because this occasion coincides with the inauguration of the first university ever to be established in Mindanao. It is an occasion of great significance not only for this region but for the whole country.

Mindanao, with its vast tracts of land and its wealth of natural resources still largely undeveloped, has always been looked upon as a land of promise. The opening of a university here is a milestone on the road to the fulfillment of that promise. For a university, ladies and gentlemen, is not only a center to which the cream of our youth go to drink from the fountain of knowledge; it is also the center from which the fruits of study and research will be diffused. I have always been advocating the development of scientific research as a means of raising the standard of living of our people, and I believe that Mindanao offers a rich field whose development by scientific methods would be of great benefit to the country as a whole.

The role that a modern university can play in the development of a region such as this, is enormous. I am glad to know that the authorities of Xavier University are keenly aware, of their role, and that this institution is precisely geared to be a potent instrument in developing this vast area.

The concept of the role of a university as a pioneering institution, is in keeping with the tradition of similar institutions managed by the Jesuit Fathers in other parts of the world. There is the Jesuit university in Nova Scotia, for instance, which has transformed an entire community of small fishermen, into a progressive community with its own canning factory which is the backbone of a thriving industry. It accomplished this transformation by slowly educating the people in the use of cooperatives, thus assuring them of a more secure livelihood and a greater measure of economic independence.

This is an example of a university alive to its role in the community. It undertook the necessary research and made the required studies of the needs of the community, and conducted an experiment which today is a model in community development.

I understand that it is a role similar to this that the authorities of Xavier University envision for this institution, and I congratulate them for their vision and foresight.

It is in recognition for their efforts towards this objective that the Community Development Research Council, a research foundation sponsored by the President’s Assistant for Community Development (PACD), has given a one-year research grant to the Social Science Research Institute of this university. The government grant is intended to aid this university in the study of barrio factors which can assist or impede agricultural and other extension projects undertaken by community development workers. Side by side with its efforts to elevate the material condition of the people in this region, this university will of course continue its vital function of forming the minds of those who will one day be leaders in this country.

Recently, I had the privilege to meet with representatives of Catholic schools throughout the Philippines. It was an occasion for me to express my belief, as I do now, that education which emphisizes spiritual and moral values is a distinct contribution to the formation of sound, law-abiding citizens.

It is true that we are greatly concerned these days with the economic problems of our country, with the great need for the economic and social uplift of our people. But it would be a serious mistake to diagnose our problems as purely economic, and to seek for solutions which leave out the moral and spiritual condition of our people. Our country, indeed, the whole world, is suffering today from the attempt to divorce economics and politics from ethical principles. It is one of the functions of a university to see that a balance is maintained between progress in the material sphere as a result of the advance of knowledge, and a corresponding awareness among the people of their moral and civic responsibilities.

After all, while we are seeking economic progress and a higher standard of living for our people consonant with our status as an independent nation, we are not after economic progress at all costs. Communist China has achieved a certain degree of material progress, but it is repugnant to our democratic concept of the dignity of man to pay for such progress as Red China did, with the surrender of our freedoms, the abandonment of our religious and ethical beliefs, and the degradation of the human person.

If we succeed in solving our economic problems but fail in strengthening the moral fiber of our people, our country would only be a prey to the ills that befall all weak nations.

I am glad, therefore, that the first university to be established here in Mindanao is one whose clearly announced policy is to direct its efforts to the development of this region and its people, at the same time imbuing its students with a social consciousness motivated by the highest religious and moral ideals.

It is lack of social conscience which in large measure is the cause of agrarian unrest in more crowded agricultural areas where the communists have managed to fan the flames of rebellion. While it is true that today there is still plenty of land in Mindanao, a time will eventually come as this region develops, when population pressure will increase, and you will have the makings of another Central Luzon unless the spirit of Christian charity and fraternal understanding is instilled among the people right from the beginning.

Allow me to conclude by recalling the great saint after whom this university has been named. It is very fitting that the name of Francis Xavier, the Apostle of the East, has been given to this university. St. Francis Xavier, as you know, was a product of the great European University of Paris. The faith and knowledge of the truth that he imbided from that university, he carried with him to the East where he lived the life of the people whom he had set out to convert to Christianity. His was a brave spirit, spirit of a trail-blazer, of a pioneer who wanted to open new vistas for the greater honor and glory of God.

I think that it is in much the same spirit that Xavier Uiversity has been established. I am proud and deeply honored to be associated with the beginnings of an institution dedicated to such a great and noble ideal.

Source: University of the Philippines, College of Law Library