The Millennial Question: Success or Significance?
By Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs
(Message delivered to student-residents of Molave Cottage.)
By not living according to God’s teachings, in the Old Testament Prophet Malachi in 3:1-3 asks us this set of questions about God’s messenger when he reminds us that “The Day of Judgment is Near”: Who will be able to endure the day when he comes? Who will be able to survive when he appears? He will be like . . . a fire that refines metals. He will come to judge like one who refines and purifies silver.
With our Founders Day theme this year, “Embracing a Refiner’s Fire,” how then do we respond to Prophet Malachi’s reminder that we have not been living according to God’s teachings?
As freshmen students in college, sociologists label your age group as Generation Y or the Millennial Generation – the generation described in demography – the study of human populations – as those who are comfortable with media and digital technologies; who are heavily influenced by MTV; who are overly confident with themselves not only because of a strong sense of entitlement but also because of traits like narcissism and a defiance of social conventions. The Millennial Generation has also been described as the Peter Pan Generation because of your need to stay as children longer – delaying the acceptance of your responsibilities as adults.
Do those descriptors tell the story that you have been living according to God’s teachings?
Let me then introduce you to Nido R. Qubein – who at 17 years of age, with only a few words of English and 50 dollars in his pocket – left his home country in the Middle East to seek his fortune in the United States. Today, he is not only the president of High Point University in North Carolina, he is also a much sought speaker who has written many inspirational best-selling books. His more recent book is Seven Choices for Success and Significance – with the sub-title, “How to Live Life From the Inside Out.”
In this book, the author and university president tells you outright: “The power to affect your future lies within your own hands.”
How does one do that? By living Prophet Malachi’s reminder – to live life according to God’s teachings!
How do we live according to God’s teachings? In his book, the teenager from the Middle East – now university president – gives us two choices, success or significance! The choice that you make, either success or significance, eventually defines the person that you can become!
What then is success? What is significance? The president’s book identifies success as something secular, something worldly – like when you get tempted because the advertisement compels you to buy when a new smartphone is now in the market. Or the TV advertisements on beauty products that feature beautiful faces – faces that can change and age through time!.
But significance is spiritual – the finer, deeper things in life that matter to who we are . . . like respect and courtesy for others especially our elders; respect for the dignity of every man or woman not because of clothes or the packaging of the person but because he or she is human; or even the respect that is due the dead from the shooting of a Malaysian plane in Ukraine where all the almost three hundred people on board have died – and whose remains and their personal belongings are still scattered and exposed to rain and sun because forensic investigators from other countries have been denied access after more than a week by rebels who want to own Ukraine!
From the point of view of your generation then, the Millennial Generation, the author defines success as a focus on three Fs: fans, fame, fortune.
Many of you must be a fan of Anne Curtis or John Lloyd Cruz – just two of the many faces you constantly see on TV and film. By now, many of you must be excitedly envious and talking about the fame of Team Sarah’s ‘The Kid Voice’ winner from Cavite – including her 1 million prize and the recording contracts that will definitely add to that fortune!
Fans, fame, fortune are elements and trappings of life’s success! They are also tangible elements of living that are fast-moving, fleeting, and transitory – because like Michael Jackson, fans, fame, and fortune can be taken away from you even in seconds!
On the other hand, the author and university president also writes in this book that significance has three Fs: faith, family, friends . . . and that, significance focuses on life’s purpose!
Your parents sent you to Silliman University. What is the purpose they want you to nurture here on campus – faith in instruction, research, and extension; the college we all honor, in our hearts without a peer? Or to make this world a better place for everyone, especially your family and friends? To nurture your personal gifts – skills, talents, abilities, your !Q and EQ – to make a difference to your own life’s purpose as well as to your family and friends?
Success or significance? Whatever your choice, the author is right: the power to affect your future is within your own hands!
Whatever your choice, your discernment can lead you to be no longer the Millenial Generation that you are now; but the responsible-accountable adult that you can be. By then, you would also have embraced a refiner’s fire, our theme for Founders Day this year. With that, your character built on faith, family, and friends would have also made you live up to the name, Molave, a tree indigenous to our country; a tree known for its strength and longevity!