We have our own ‘little Obamas’
By Marichu A. Villanueva Friday, November 7, 2008
The Philippine Star
The historic election into the White House of the first African-American, Sen. Barack Obama have served to inspire many leading Filipino politicians who dream of being elected also to the highest office of our land. But not all well-meaning public officials need to aspire for the presidency if really they want to serve our people in general.
The Democrat Senator from Illinois routed Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona in one of the quickest contests in the US presidential race. Some of our homegrown political leaders, too, especially those who have moist eyes towards the May 2010 presidential elections, identify themselves with Obama who defied the great odds against him.
In his victory speech immediately after McCain graciously conceded to him, Obama made stirring statements on how his being voted to become the new President meant to the American people, of whatever creed or color, to pursue the “American Dream” in the US.
With his wife Michelle and two daughters behind him, Obama rallied his audience: “…To reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth — that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, We Can!”
It reminded me of the “Yes, We Can!” battle cry of business leader Jose “Joecon” Concepcion during his stint as secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry under the Aquino administration. Joecon unceasingly pushed this “Yes, We Can!” campaign to prod Filipino industry and business leaders they can break into the world market and break they did!
But long before Obama made this “Yes, We Can!” declaration, an academe-based group from the Ateneo de Manila have started a new movement they called “Yes, We Can! Kaya Natin!” One of its key organizers is Harvey S. Keh, director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.
With the results of the US presidential elections last Wednesday already sealed for Obama, two of the “Yes, We Can! Kaya Natin!” leaders visited us at The STAR office — Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca and Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija. The two local government officials are among their group’s “models” for good governance whom Harvey Keh fondly describes as “our own little Obamas.”
Gov. Padaca and Mayor Lorenzo swore they are no presidential wannabes even as they, too, admit being inspired by Obama’s feat. Both of them are very humble about their track record as local public officials who lead by example on good governance. In fact, they have been going around the country to promote the good governance principles in practice before students of public administration in colleges and universities.
Harvey sent me a copy of a blog where he shared his views on Obama’s victory in relation to their group’s advocacy. With his group’s permission, I am reprinting it here:
“As the United States of America’s President-elect Barack Obama was delivering his victory speech in Chicago, a sense of inspiration and hope began to fill me up. Here was a young African-American, first-term Senator who has defied all odds to become the first Black President of the most powerful country in the world. Obama campaigned on the message of Change, a Change that every American could believe in, a Change that resonated with so many American voters most especially those aged between 18-29 years old. In CNN’s analysis, one of the major factors for Obama’s victory was his charismatic appeal to young voters. This appeal, along with his very inspiring words would rally millions of young and previously apathetic American voters to register and take part in the elections. Obama also showed the world a new way of campaigning, earning hundreds of millions of dollars not by getting big donations from businessmen but by appealing to ordinary people to donate small amounts of $5 to $10 to his campaign. More importantly, Obama’s campaign team was a master of using the power of the internet and social networking sites such as Twitter, My Space and Facebook, thereby being able to relate to the younger, tech-savvy generation. He ended his speech with the words “Yes, We Can” and he showed the world that despite having not enough financial resources or political clout compared to Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John McCain when he launched his bid for the Presidency more than two years ago, he was able to win decisively because he was able to rally ordinary people to his cause. Indeed, change has come to America and Filipinos can learn much from the experience of Barack Obama. As we draw near to our Presidential elections in 2010, will we have to content ourselves again with choosing from the same faces, or worse, choosing between the lesser evil among the candidates? I hope not. I look forward to the day that we can also find a true Filipino leader who will also inspire millions of Filipinos to rally for change, a change that millions of Filipinos have been longing for and a change that will hopefully, put an end to the growing poverty cycle that majority of Filipinos have to face each day. Many Filipinos have begun to lose hope in finding that leader but I think that we have our own little Obamas in our country today such as the likes of Ramon Magsaysay Awardees Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City and Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela, Gov. Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga, Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija and Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao. These local government leaders have defied the odds in their respective areas to win against well-entrenched political dynasties and at the same time, deliver proper basic services to their constituents. Being with them in our group which is aptly named Kaya Natin, we go around to different colleges and universities to share their stories of hope and change towards inspiring more Filipinos to work for good governance. Obama was not entirely correct when he said it is only in the United States of America where someone can defy the odds and win, our own Kaya Natin! leaders have shown that Filipinos can also say, “Yes, We Can! Kaya Natin!”
For more information about Kaya Natin! – firstname.lastname@example.org or at (02) 4265657.