I am honored to speak to you today as we celebrate this important academic milestone. We mark a transition into a new and exciting chapter of our lives. This day wouldn’t have been possible without the help of seen and unseen forces in our lives. I know for me, that has been the story of my journey here.
I owe a debt of gratitude to those people who’ve constantly believed in me; I thank all my siblings, my parents, trusted friends, my wife, and most of all, our Heavenly Father for these opportunities of spiritual and secular growth.
One of my favorite hobbies is studying world maps. As a kid, I was drawn by the earth’s sublime natural beauty. Maps taught me to be constantly curious about different places. It taught me to see the bigger picture. I could even say it made me dream big. Even as a naive grade-schooler, this unassuming hobby instilled a thirst for wanting to go to places that I haven’t been to. I told myself one day, I’ll get to visit these wonders, make friends from everywhere, and learn about different ways of life. I never thought this day would come that I’ll stand before you as friends and fellow graduates in one of the most diverse universities having finally received a degree in what I truly love to learn.
Growing up in rural Santa Maria, Philippines, my family’s biggest investments were in providing a quality education for us. The challenge was that my dad had to work abroad just to make ends meet. My siblings eventually worked in other countries after graduating. It seemed like my family felt so distant because of physical separation. Though we stayed strong, I often felt alone. It became worse when my father, who’s sacrificed so much, returned home and passed away due to illness. In a span of a few years, other close relatives have also died. It was easy to feel that I had lost my support system and that my mentors were all gone.
Those years taught me that even when I felt absolutely alone and helpless, I never was truly alone. There are unseen spiritual forces ready to give aid at my disposal; I just had to recognize and seek it. I often had deep feelings of doubt about myself, my capabilities, and my future. Some of you may feel this way as if you’ve “created your own monsters” and feared there is no way to defeat this adversary we call “the uncertain future.” When a goal feels extremely difficult or against your odds, stand up, face your fears, and push through! Remember that in this journey, know that we can access divine help to realize our dreams. As the saying from my favorite legend goes: “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” Even if we fail, these experiences will teach us to become stronger.
Five years ago, fresh off my mission in Salt Lake City. I was very eager to get back to school. I wrestled extensively in my head to figure out how to get over the “improbability” of getting admitted to BYU–Hawaii. I didn’t have a job, no money in the bank, no connections to this place, and worst of all I was running out of both time and hope. I remember waking up every day hearing a familiar thought that keeps saying “It’s like trying to punch the moon. I bet you it won’t land!!” I was actually ready to accept that this place really wasn’t for me.
Looking back, I realized I gave in to fear too quickly. I was constantly engaged in anxiety and not being “anxiously engaged in a good cause”; there’s a difference. When I listened to voices that diminished hope and conjured up uncertainty, I became paralyzed. But when I acted to fight fear and sought strength beyond my own, I found that I was more capable to fulfill a seemingly insurmountable task. If I had given up, I never would have witnessed what greater things that lie ahead.
Anything is possible when we give acting in faith a chance! We have what it takes to succeed because we are His children and when we “anxiously engage ourselves in a good cause” we are given the power to overcome life’s challenges. I testify that our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed and is watching over us. He has provided the means to accomplish incredible things in life. I testify of all these things and leave them with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.