Inspiring words have found no place in President Aquino’s addresses to us, his people.
Either he tries to flatter us with simple sentence constructions such as “Kayo ang Boss ko” or he hectors us with his homilies on taking the right path, the “tuwid na daan.”
The foreign audiences and the chambers of commerce are almost always given a data-littered version of those unalloyed speeches.
The language is straightforward but occasionally awkward, the feel of words coming through a wringer. Those who write for the president clearly go through the painful process of exclusively choosing words that are of plain vanilla.
The president and his writers have found no need for crafting words very much like the Gettysburg Address, which delivery by President Lincoln in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania marked its 150th year on November 19. Even Pinoys can recite whole sentences from this famous address, a total of 267 words that has found its place among the greatest speeches of all time—267 words that will survive world wars, super typhoons, Biblical-level plagues and pestilences.
Is there, within the ranks of the Aquino administration, a disdain for words that summon the highest ideals and the most noble purpose of a nation? Many think there is and President Aquino, in his public declarations, is determined to be an un-Obama or a un-Lincoln, despite the clear need for such speeches now. These two presidents have a fondness for words of nobility and great purpose in tackling issues such as race, religion, great national tragedies and conflicts.
What the circles around the president describe as earnestness and the lack of artifice on the part of the president when he communicates with us and other audiences may not be viewed as such by other sectors in society. The proof: President Aquino cannot ask his countrymen to unite and act as one even in the wake of the horrific aftermath of a super typhoon, which destructive powers have no known parallels even in tropical setting so vulnerable to super typhoons.
Groping for traction
His leadership is groping for traction in the midst of a great humanitarian crisis, yet he cannot seem to summon the hopeful and the inspiring words to rally his calamity-stricken nation. His obsession to appear knowledgeable about the situation on the ground has not served him well.
Where has his mastery of data taken him so far, as he oversees the relief and rehabilitation work of the disaster areas, which practically mean the entire Visayan region? The answer: Nowhere. In fact, his mastery of the facts and data on the relief and rehab efforts has added to his woes, not lessened them.
Example. President Aquino’s factoids on the efficient LGUs, the ones that performed well in the wake of Yolanda, pushed him into making comparisons, and Tacloban City, one of the worst-hit LGUs, was blamed for its alleged inefficiency and lack of preparedness. Naturally, the city’s LGU would react and deny the charge—an accusation of failure and dereliction of duty was the worst thing that can be said of local officials during tragedies.
In a city of rubble and dead bodies, LGU officials would always react strongly and negatively to charges of negligence. Even those coming from the president.
There is a time for everything. Even words and sentences should have a season.
During normal times, truth-telling and simple coinages such as “ Kayo ang Boss ko” and “tuwid na daan” may indeed gain resonance and traction with the greater public.
The investing community just need simple assurances that the rules and regulatory requirements would be fair to business and capital.
Not now. This time it is entirely different.
In the cold of the Pennsylvania fall 150 years ago, Lincoln wrote words that described the anguished of a war-torn nation, words drawn from the depths of his personal sorrow. He did skip the position of his cavalry. Or war statistics. Or the tenacity of the confederates. Or the battle reports from his genius but disheveled generals. It was a defining moment in the life of an utterly divided and bloodied nation and a need for data or statistics was superfluous if not irrelevant .
He just burst forth with 267 words that preserved a union and prevented the disintegration of what is now the most powerful country on Planet Earth.
Can President Aquino stand on the rubble of Tacloban or Hernani and express the depth of his personal grief and say that the nation, standing firm and untied, will lift the prostrate grounds from the pestilential aftermath?
And say that the devastated areas will be lifted from the ground with his leadership in charge and something hopeful would soon emerge from the wreckage?
Perhaps not. But history has been reverential to leaders who wrote poetry and used words to inspire. And very little regard for those who utter “Walang kama-kamag-anak.”
The legacy of John F. Kennedy, whose 50th year of assassination was marked this month, is anchored on a body of great speeches, that called his people to arms, whether that task is sending people to the moon or just spreading the mission of a great democracy.