Groping for traction amid a tragedy, PNoy should drop plain speak and do a Gettysburg

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

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.


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  1. Sori po Sir Marlen kasi di tumatalab sa pinoy ang mga magagandang speech na hindi nakakain o nagbibigay ng trabaho o ng murang bilihin o ng katahimikan. Puro idad 50 pataas na lang ang nag eenjoy sa “four scores and 7 years ago” at saka iyong “what you can do for your country”.

  2. The president has no depth of grief to reach down to. He has shown himself to be rather insensitive and cold. So, delivering a speech prepared for him by someone else who can write poetry or use words that can move and inspire us to unite, will be totally useless, because the problem will be in convincing us that he means it. Mr. Aquino can even cry but his tears will be crocodile tears. I will not budge even an inch, because I will see through this man.

  3. Voice from the Wilderness on

    Sorry to say this, but this present inept president is like an old dog and you can not teach an old dog new tricks. So this suggestion of a Gettysburg type of speech is definitely out of this world for him.

  4. good writing sir, perhaps Pnoy can still unite the people and rebuild the clamatiy stricken areas. good luck and mor power to you…

  5. Kaya nga nagkalokoko ang bansa natin dahil kadaldalan nitong si penoy. Pala-away na parang bata. Mabilis ang kaysa sa utak. Gettysburg pa? In your dreams.

  6. Gettysburg address? I saw the movie Lincoln and it was said that President Abraham Lincoln prepared the short address for weeks before he delivered it. Preparing for weeks for what ,a 260 (not sure of correct figure) word address. Sir Ronquillo, BS Aquino does not have the time to prepare such a historical speech. Firstly, he does not enough mental faculty to prepare such a masterpiece as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, secondly, he is too lazy to think about such a thing. Just leave it to his speechwriter, whoever he or she maybe.

    • The president, too, does not mean what he says, so it is very unlikely of him to be able to write or utter words of inspiration for his people. It is just not in his persona.

  7. Interesting comments Mr. Ronquillo. We could only hope that the president would find the genius in him to hire a speech writer who could come up with a such a speech you speak of. Sadly, perhaps because of his relations to movie personalities, he hired as his best writer who came up with “tuwid na daan”, an advertising man. I wonder though if someone like you or the long winded writer/critic Mr. Tatad (no not Kit, just you, what am I thinking about) can come up with a speech noteworthy and present it to the president so he maybe able to redeem himself and hopefully as you say, give traction to his leadership. He needs help, that is obvious. Sadly, he his surrounded by a “student council”. I like your seeming eloquence and sometimes, you just have to be assertive to get the president’s attention. What do you say? Give him the speech and push him on a podium.

    • Agree! Mr Ronquilo can save BS Aquino from further embarrassment for delivering ineffective and un-inspirational “soul-less” speeches.

      The hapless victims do not need statistics – delivered without emotion – to console them on the immeasurable loss of the lives of their loved ones and properties.