Journalist urges graduates to find courage

August 25, 2019

TIME's Person of the Year and multi-awarded journalist Maria Ressa has urged graduates to find courage to stand up to bullies that they may encounter or are encountering in life.

Ressa, founder of online news portal Rappler, was the guest of honor and speaker during the 73rd commencement exercise of the University of the Cordilleras on August 17, 2019 where she shared three lessons from her own life that helped her have courage to fight: make the choice to learn; embrace one's fears; and beware the crowd, stand up to bullies.

"Many ask me 'how do you find courage?' I'm no revolutionary but just like these small acts could turn you evil, courage also grows from small acts," Ressa said.

As a migrant in the United States at 10 years old, she learned to "embrace change" and it helped her make the choice to learn, which involves a lot of failures.

"Your values are formed when you are a bit younger. The University of the Cordilleras only amplified what is already inside you," she said.

Relating it to Rappler, she said that the editorial staff members are constantly moving with the time.

"In traditional broadcast journalism, it would take five years to change a system. In Rappler, we change every few weeks. How do we deal with that? Well, you take it as a given. That's our work today," she said.

In embracing one's fear, Ressa said one has to take the risk and also be able to trust in people who can help them. She said it is better to face one's fear than to run away from it because it is the way to conquer it.

"When I put my faith in the men and women of the Philippine judiciary who are touching the many cases against me and Rappler, I believe there are Filipinos, not just in this system, who have the integrity and will uphold the spirit of the law," she said.

Ressa, who is facing 11 cases filed by the Philippine government against her and Rappler, said she is facing head on the possibility that she might be imprisoned, much like the experiences of the people who were chosen with her as TIME's People of the Year for being "guardians of truth."

Going back to her third point of standing up against bullies, she related her story of her 10-year-old self, standing up, after sometime, for her bullied classmate for wearing polyester pants.

"Because everything was foreign when I was 10 years old, I had no choice but to observe. I had the luxury to just watch to understand the crowd but not necessarily be part it. It's great training for a journalist," she said.

She said everyone in her class bullied her classmate and when she had a chance to talk to her, she was able to find out that her classmate's father was dying and they had no money to buy clothes.

"That was when I started standing up for her and somehow a few of my friends started helping me and slowly, her life got better. It taught me a cruel lesson about the cruelty of the crowd, herd mentality," she said.

"We in Rappler know who we are, the values we stand for, the Constitutional rights we are fighting for. As you sit there today, think about what you want to be. You already finished your hard work; you have your degree. What are the values you live by? Before you go into battle, what are the lines you would never cross, because on this side of the line you're good when you cross that line you're evil. What are those lines in your life?" she asked the students.

Published in the Baguio Midland Courier issued August 25, 2019 | Article by Ofelia C. Empian

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