12th International Youth Day – Philippines

Welcome Address

Congressman Jerry P. Treñas

Honored guests of Iloilo City, youth delegates, ladies and gentlemen: it is with great joy that I welcome you to the 12th International Youth Day. I am truly honored that the United Nations Association of the Philippines and the United Nations Youth Association of the Philippines opted to celebrate the International Youth Day in Iloilo City. I feel especially elated since this is the very first time that the Youth Day is celebrated outside of Metro Manila.

The theme of this year’s convention is “volunteering for Millennium Development Goals: discover the volunteer in you.” I cannot help but be reminded of the words of the great Winston Churchill about the nobility of volunteerism when he said that “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”

It is through our contributions to society that we make a difference. Many years from now, we shall neither be remembered by the size of our bank accounts, nor by the fame that we amassed. Our lives shall be measured by what we freely gave for the betterment of our society and mankind.

By volunteering to make a stand against poverty and corruption despite the deep entrenchment of these social ills. By standing up to injustice even if no one will fault you for your silence. By pushing forward as the rest retreat, for advancing worthy causes amidst insurmountable odds can only be fueled by the hearts of those who heroically carry their burden without compulsion or ulterior motive.

After everything has been settled, as the future generations take measure of the lives of those who walked before them, your legacy shall be weighed based not on what you took, but on what you gave. The pillagers of old are not glorified, for it is the builders of just and equitable societies that are immortalized as titans.

And the epic of these titans all began in their youth, when they casted their apprehensions and apathy aside and volunteered to make this world a better place. From their meek young voices sprung the tides that turned tyrannies to democracies, prejudice to unity, and destitution to affluence.

Committing to something that you are not obliged to pledge to is the true mark of selflessness and idealism. The heart of a volunteer can therefore trump the efforts of the most cunning and brilliant men and women, for a volunteer seeks to act even before a response is required from him or her.

The youth participants gathered here today are all volunteers. You were not forced to attend this convention, as you all have your own concerns. Perhaps some of you have pending schoolwork, while others have invitations to go to on summer trips with their friends. Yet you all chose to participate in the International Youth Day. Your choice, my young friends, is a manifestation of maturity and social responsibility that is beyond that of most of your elders.

I am glad that a good number of our young volunteers decided to attend this convention. The experiences that you will share with your fellow delegates, and the programs prepared by the organizers of this event, shall contribute greatly in the development of your leadership skills. The activities lined-up for the delegates will help our young leaders to understand the pressing issues faced not only by our country, but of the entire planet.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the United Nations were formulated to address the numerous problems besieging all of the countries in the world today. Regardless of where you live or what your nationality is, the compounded problems of modern society will eventually consume the entire planet if left unchecked. Take note that we live in a global village wherein all countries are interdependent on one another. Even if you live in a rich first-world country, you will still feel the effects of the global food crisis caused by the lack of water sources and deteriorating peace and order situations because the bread baskets of the world are the developing countries reliant on agricultural production and export.

On the other hand, if you live in an underdeveloped country, you will still experience the effects of the problems caused by industrialized nations. The greenhouse gasses emitted by first world countries may sound foreign and alien to the farmers tilling their lands, but the hazardous effects of industrial pollution such as global warming will be felt by rural workers since their harvests will be depleted due to the drastic changes in climate.

We live in one giant village called Earth, and we have to act responsibly as global citizens in order to ensure that all of our problems are met with ample remedies through the collective efforts of the entire human population. The MDGs of the United Nations are not a collection of idealistic targets that can be achieved in a dream scenario. Rather, the MDGs are the minimum development goals that must be achieved by all nations in the world in order to ensure the survival of the human race.

Unfortunately, the Philippines is lagging behind in several MDGs, such as maternal health, combating of AIDS and other diseases, and achieving universal primary education. While these problems may sound too “grown-up” for you, I guarantee the youth present today that the social ills faced by the present crop of leaders in both the public and private sector most definitely affect the conditions and well-being of our young citizens. It is never too early to take responsibility and commit to solve these daunting problems. I encourage the youth to be aware of these problems in order to be able to formulate, at a very early age, feasible and sustainable solutions that can remedy these concerns.

You may think that the MDGs are the result of the sum of all fears of the countries of the world. The price of failure is anarchy, global hunger, environmental destruction and pandemonium. While these scenarios sound gloomy, the reason for the concerns of the United Nations and its youth organizations is based on the fact that members of the general population are not even paying attention to these very real problems.

The future is not an eventuality that will ultimately happen. For the first time in the history of mankind, the existence of our collective future a century from now cannot even be guaranteed. We are running out of oil, food and sustainable energy. Climate change is causing severe natural disasters. Water levels are threatening to engulf entire cities.

We cannot wait for the future come. We have to fight to make sure that the future will come.

Many of your leaders have seen their better days. While they approach the twilight of their careers, your journey as leaders of this nation is just about to begin. The MDGs of the United Nations are non-negotiables. These goals must be met for human civilization to survive and thrive in the new millennium.

The first step to meet these goals is for the people of the world to acknowledge that there indeed are grave problems that must be met. This initial step requires a person, in his or her own initiative, to step up and decide to make a difference.

This small yet important step, therefore, is to volunteer. It may not be as monumental as landing on the moon, but this small step is a giant leap for mankind.

To my young volunteers who are present here today, I salute you for your resolve and dedication. The future is in your safe hands.