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 more 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 2 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 since as we draw near to our own 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 that 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!, you can contact Kai Pastores at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (02) 426-5657.
*Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. He is also part of Kaya Natin!