Often described as “a true man of the masses,” President Ramon Magsaysay
tragically died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957. He was hailed worldwide
as an exceptional leader for his incorruptible integrity, his dedication to
public service, and his greatness of spirit.
To preserve his legacy as a champion of democracy and to perpetuate the
values that embody servant leadership, the Ramon Magsaysay Award
Foundation was established, and Asia’s premier prize and highest honor
was named after him.
Six decades since his passing, Asia is faced with increasing challenges:
a worldwide health pandemic that has seriously eroded economies, more
intense natural disasters wrought by climate change, a veritable infodemic of
fake news fuelling divisiveness and the rise of strongman rule. We are also
witness to the continuing crisis in Myanmar and Afghanistan, as well as
the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine and Russia. Their effects are felt here
as in many other parts of the world, for we are all connected.
Today gives us pause to reflect on the kind of world we wish to build and the
country we hope to offer to succeeding generations.
And so today, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation applauds
the many frontliners who continue the fight
to preserve the rule of law, respect for human rights,
recognition and support for the marginalized sectors of our societies.
Today, more than ever, the words and the actions of President Magsaysay and
our past laureates reverberate loudly.
|Since 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award has been
conferred on women and
men in Asia who have promoted the common man’s
fundamental rights — paths that are marked by freedom,
good governance, participative citizenship and enlightened leadership.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award has always been about finding ordinary people doing
extraordinary things. Among the hundreds of Magsaysay laureates who
have held the torch high, today we especially remember:
The DALAI LAMA world-famous man of peace who asserted that the Tibetan
peoples have a right to their culture and independence;
ARUNA ROY, a social activist who empowered millions of Indians by asserting their
Right to Information, Right to Food, and Right to Work;
JESSE ROBREDO, Filipino icon of good governance who demonstrated that
excellence, compassion and transparency are marks of authentic servant leaders;
KOUL PANHA, a committed leader who encouraged an enlightened, organized and
vigilant Cambodian citizenry to ensure fair and free elections in his country;
HABIBA SARABI, Afghanistan’s first female governor who has broken many glass
ceilings so that women in her country can dream bigger!
From these amazing individuals and many more champions, we take to heart
timeless lessons that will serve us well in these anxious times:
That we must seek the truth always,
That vigilance is the price of freedom,
That we can choose peace over aggression,
That to be aware of lies and injustice but to not expose them
is to abet and perpetuate inequality,
That True Power emanates from us, the people.
Hence, that the power to change our lives
and our children’s lives for the better
is in our hands.