Educated to become a teacher, NILAWAN PINTONG chose the challenge of schooling the women and youth of her country to become useful citizens exercising initiative in public affairs.
With a sense of this mission, she left the security of government service to help build a magazine that would foster a greater community consciousness among Thailand's women. From this beginning grew also a youth magazine, a news weekly and a series of radio programs—all championing a new awareness of civic needs.
From these journalistic efforts she extended the scope of her concern to creating community organizations. She stirred printers, librarians and writers to a higher conception of their professional role. She aroused women to realize that they could do something about education for the young and urgent social needs; among their achievements was a program enabling Thais in depressed areas to help themselves. For citizenship training she organized a youth club.
A distinctive contribution has been her Ounakorn Center. It provides a friendly headquarters and free office services for struggling organizations of students, writers and women. And foreign visitors find there a welcome entree to Thai intellectual and cultural life.
Among Khun NILAWAN's most consequential achievements has been her quiet shepherding of such new civic ventures to maturity. Objective and fearless in voicing her views, she has been withal a diplomat. Typically serving as secretary, always without pay, she has saved many groups from disastrous pitfalls. She shuns publicity, is seldom photographed, and, yet, her competence, dependability and sound judgment are recognized by persons from all walks of life who seek her advice.
Lacking personal wealth with which to finance such work, she instead has given unsparingly of her time and energy. So that she could give more attention when needed, she has relinquished her home and now lives in a small room next to her office. Such selflessness has nurtured in others a willingness to serve.
In electing NILAWAN PINTONG to receive the 1961 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes her volunteer participation and leadership in developing constructive civic enterprises that have given women a new and creative role in Thailand.
There are wonderful surprises that come our way, at one time or another, in our life. And to me this prestigious award is the greatest and most wonderful surprise of all.
The honor and distinction bestowed upon me makes me feel most grateful and makes today the most memorable day of my life. This auspicious and noble event reveals once again to all men the undying spirit of greatness of the late President Ramon Magsaysay. The national loss of the Philippines five years ago has become the world's gain in consciousness of the spirit that is sublime. The noble standard set by his leadership inspires universally. His greatness transcends the barrier of race, nationality or creed. Like a spiritual torch, it burns bright, lighting eternally the path for men and women who believe and work selflessly for a better human society, a society where justice, peace and freedom prevail. The world has been vitalized by its impact ever since, and again today.
To be honored with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for me is not personal pride alone; my country, Thailand, also rejoices with me. The philosophy and meaning of the award has focused the attention of Thai society as a whole on the true spirit of service. Royal graciousness came in the congratulations from Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the great patroness herself of national public service. The first lady, Tan Puying Vichitra Dhanaraj, wife of the Prime Minister, extended her felicitations. The press and leaders of philanthropic and civic organizations as well as officials in the Civil Service, Army, Navy and the Air Forces joined with men and women who are private citizens in expression of awareness of the spirit behind the award announcement. Thailand also rejoices in the recognition for the outstanding service of the Awardee for International Understanding for her international citizenship, because the winner of the Award makes our country one place of her residence. Her selfless devotion to the cause of the blind in Thailand opens the mind and the eyes of our public to a new vista of service of man for man. The Ramon Magsaysay Award has thus brought about a closer tie of friendship and sentiment between our two countries. Today we are walking the path which leads to further fulfillment.
We feel more assured of those spiritual values which need mutual strengthening to withstand the misinterpretation of truth, justice and freedom.
The world has undergone all forms of phenomenal changes, but that which endures is mankind. No matter how powerful are man-made weapons, they can not completely destroy their maker. In man, the most powerful element is the noble spirit. Compassion and loving kindness will always win over hate and violence which are of lesser quality.
Today another great satisfaction for me is the opportunity to meet and know of men and women who have proved that the spirit exists as a binding force for selfless service to their country, people and ultimately to the world.
The spirit and philosophy behind this award points out the fact that mankind needs more than ever the manifestation and fortification of the true ideals of freedom and prosperity for all.
In my very humble belief, we are progressing on the path once marked out by the exemplary life of Ramon Magsaysay, great statesman not only of the Philippines but of the world, for the greatness of his spirit is the true greatness of man.
My most humble reverence goes to him whose name will forever inspire. The Board of Trustees have won my most sincere thanks for keeping their precious and noble trust with the utmost responsibility.