This essay is my contribution to the commemoration today of the 116th anniversary of Philippine independence.
For some reason, many are deviating and fleeing from the traditional commemorative rites and the usual exaltation of heroism and patriotism that marks speeches on this day.
Fleeing the capital and the rally
The president of our republic, Benigno Aquino 3rd, has fled the national capital to go to Naga City, ostensibly in homage to the administration’s manufactured hero, Jesse Robredo, but more likely to avoid facing the tens of thousands who are gathering at Liwasang Bonifacio today and will later march to Mendiola and Malacanang to demand accountability from the President and the Cabinet for the plunder of public funds.
Strangely also, where it might have laid a wreath on our nationhood by proclaiming with finality that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the administration is illegal and unconstitutional, the Supreme Court, on the insistence of chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, chose to kick the can down the road, all the way to July.
What is everyday greatness?
For my part, I will essay today a little meditation on greatness, or what a wonderful Reader’s Digest Book calls “everyday greatness.”
The volume, “Everyday Greatness: Inspiration For a Meaningful Life,” is a compilation of moving essays and timeless stories and quotations on principles of living. It is introduced and threaded together by a continuing commentary from the famous teacher and author, Stephen Covey.
In his introduction, Covey sets the idea of everyday greatness in a series of short statements.
In a world where turmoil dominates the news and words of discouragement often prevail, I feel blessed to meet daily individuals whose lives convince me that there is an abundance of good among us.
In a day when we hear so much of corporate scandals and ethical breaches, I feel blessed to associate with leaders whose lives are filled with integrity and moral fortitude.
In an age when parenthood and family ties are perhaps being challenged as perhaps never before, I feel blessed to know strong fathers and noble mothers who by day and night do their best to provide sustenance and nurture for their children.
Occasionally, the world witnesses heroic feat or discovers a person with rare talent. Such singular events and accomplishments often appear in media headlines under the banner of “greatness.”
But most people know there is another type of greatness that tends to be more quiet by nature. it is equally deserving of high honor and respect. This, Covey and the compiler of the volume, David Hatch, call everyday greatness.
To explain the concept, Covey distinguishes between what he calls “primary greatness” and “secondary greatness.”
Primary greatness has to do with character and contribution (making a difference).
Secondary greatness has to do with notoriety, wealth, fame, prestige, or position.
He then elaborates:
“Everyday greatness is a way of living , not a one-time event. It says more about who a person is than what a person has, and is portrayed more by the goodness that radiates from a face than the title on a business card. It speaks more about people’s motives than about their talents, more about small and simple deeds than about grandiose accomplishments.”
When asked to describe everyday greatness, people typically describe individuals they know personally. They describe someone who is within reach of emulation, sensing that they do not have to be the next Gandhi, or Abraham Lincoln or Mother Teresa to exhibit everyday greatness. These are people who, despite the negative noise in the world, find ways to step up and make a contribution. It is all part of who they are every day.
Everyday greatness founded our nation
I fantasize that it was everyday greatness that explains how an entire generation of young Filipinos were radicalized to fight for nationhood and stage the Philippine revolution in 1896 and fight the Philippine-American war in 1899. It explains why our first republic was not just a Tagalog republic, but one encompassing the hopes of the entire archipelago.
I fancy also that everyday greatness led my grandfather—a student in Manila in the 1890s and later a schoolteacher in Leyte—to join the revolution and lead a group of Leyteños in the Philippine-American war, fighting up to the very end of the war, when they formally laid down their arms. (Thankfully, his feat of arms is recorded in books and not forgotten.)
What are the roots of everyday greatness?
Covey says they lie in three choices that each of us makes every day of our lives. These are:
#1. The choice to act
Will we act upon life or will we be merely acted upon? Do we just float with the tides or do we take proactive responsibility for our lives and our actions?
#2. The choice of purpose
To what ends and purposes will our daily actions lead? What is our destination? We each want to know that our life matters. We want to do as much good in the world as possible.
#3 The choice of principles
Principles determine the means to reach our destination, or how we attain our goals. Do we live our lives in accordance with proven and universal principles?
Everyday greatness consists of seven thematic parts, and 21 chapters on topics and themes as varied as Responsibility, Courage, Discipline, Integrity, Vision, Empathy, Magnanimity, Balance and Renewal.
The little essays and stories are thought-provoking, and the quotations are precious little gems.
Towards the end of the volume, Covey declares that he hopes the everyday greatness book will arouse in people a desire to become a transition person.
“A transition person is one who breaks the flow of bad-negative traditions or harmful practices that get passed from generation to generation, or from situation to situation, whether in a family or workplace, or in a community or wherever.
“Transition persons transcend their own needs and tap into the deepest and noblest impulses of human nature. In times of darkness, they are lights, not judges, are models, not critics. In periods of discord, they are change catalysts, not victims, healers not carriers. The world needs more transition persons. Each of us should aspire to become one of the best.”
Words are cheap, but I believe citizens rallying for accountability today are transition persons. I, too, want to be one.
This is the place and now is the time.