Response of Cres V. Chan-Gonzaga, Ph.D.
July 2, 2002
East West Center Association Conference Luncheon, Kuala Lumpur

I am honored to accept this Most Distinguished Alumni Award from the East-West Center, which in itself is a most distinguished Center for men and women dedicated to the hopes and dreams of humanity at the beginning of this new century.

I stand here today in wondrous awe and deep gratitude for how the East-West Center has truly changed my life. My EWC experience many summers ago introduced me to the demands of the new humanism that then and now is an important need of the world. By a new humanism, I speak of ensuring that one will no longer be the object of manipulation but shall take in one’s hand his own destiny and to bring about communities which are truly human.

Indeed, the EWC has always been the embodiment of positive contribution to the advancement of humanity, the enhancement of cultural understanding, the strengthening of intellectual vitality, and the promotion of mutual tolerance. In the experience that was the East-West Center, we were all exposed to a community that attempted to rekindle the lost fires of idealism, restore the lost balance between need and greed, and reinvigorate the love for people and the passion for brotherhood.

To me, the East-West Center has always been a living testament to the divine creativity of man. The diversity of ideas, views and thoughts that so clearly mark the EWC community was – and doubtless continues to be – wonderful and stimulating. The interplay between such diversity always reminded me of Emerson who said that “one who builds with ideas, builds for eternity.” And clearly, the East-West Center has greatly contributed to the building of an Asian-Pacific community upon the foundations of the one single, yet enduring idea that our differences will crumble in the face of our common humanity.

Today, at the twilight of my professional career, the values and the philosophy that animate the East-West Center continue to be the beacon by which I am guided in the important journey of making a difference in my life and work as well as in those of whom I touch. This legacy I also would like to believe I have successfully given to my children. My eldest seems to share my dream of giving self to service of country. He’s a lawyer but instead of joining a law firm for more money, he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs with the hope of doing what he could do in his own little ways to serve his country. The same vision is shared by his sister who has just finished her law degree from the Ateneo (the same school where her brother finished his law). She’s joined the Center for Human Rights and plans to dedicate her life to those who need help most. And when my youngest made his perpetual vow as a Jesuit, it was also with that same dream, that same love of country that pushed me to come back to my country at the end of my EWC and Ford Foundation experiences.

Friends, someone once said that with age comes the inevitable loss of idealism. But I must say that today, as I stand here, I continue to see in our eyes the sparkle of idealism and I am more confident than ever that if we light our little lamps of talent for the betterment of the world and our respective countries, then these will blaze in the brightness of a thousand suns of hope for the future. Tonybee wrote in his study of history that the divine spark of creative power is instinct in ourselves, and if we have the grace to kindle it into flame, then the stars in the courses cannot defeat our efforts to attain the goal of human endeavor.

I am confident that as we all strive to build a better and greater Asia-Pacific, we will stand in solidarity with the East-West Center in liberating the minds of people all over the region and the world from the bondage of ignorance and cultural insensitivity. And by such freedom we shall have given ourselves the possibility of perfecting our humanity. Again, I thank you. And good afternoon.