It is with a deep sense of gratitude and humility that I accept this great honor. Of course, I realize that this is not so much a recognition of any achievement on my part as a recognition of the basic importance of a movement for rural reconstruction and mass education with which I have been associated for nearly 40 years. Such an award given by such a distinguished Board in the name of such a great champion of freedom and education for the masses cannot but spur me and my colleagues on to greater efforts for our underprivileged fellowmen.
We greatly appreciate the sympathetic and understanding statement made by the Foundation that we have a "continuing concern for the whole man and molding his social institutions, rather than simply reshaping his physical environment." The village is important but the villager is more important. No village reconstruction can be truly effective and lasting unless the villager is reconstructed mentally and spiritually. Rural reconstruction is only the means, and human reconstruction the end. God?s noblest creation is not the sun, the moon and the stars but man because man is made in His own image.
Now, let us see what is the state of our fellow man in our world today. To answer this question, I can do no better than quote President Eisenhower: "In vast stretches of the earth, men awake today in hunger. They will spend the day in unceasing toil and as the sun goes down, they will still know hunger. Many despair that their labor will ever decently shelter their families or protect them against hunger and disease. So long as this is so, peace and freedom will be in danger throughout our world."
President Eisenhower's statement applies particularly to our Asia which contains more than half of the world's hungry people! Now, what is the matter with us Asians? Is it because we have a low mentality, descended from a poor human stock? No, my friends. Confucius, Buddha and Jesus were all Asians! Nothing wrong with the stock. But what accounts for their being the victims of poverty and diseases? I will venture one reason. I believe our Asian ancestors spent too much time searching for ways of dealing withhuman nature, whereas the ancestors of the West devoted their time to discovering ways of conquering physical nature. As a result, they have developed what is called science. With it they have conquered the land, the sea and, before too long, the air. And to a remarkable extent, they have also conquered poverty and disease. If we are, therefore, to transform our Asian peasants into a modern people, a people that can conquer poverty and disease, we must take science to them. This, however, is more easily said than done.
In the first place, modern science, as it is being taught in the colleges, whether it be agricultural or medical science, social or political science, is beyond the comprehension of the Asian peasant. To make it practical for them, science must step down. This is a great challenge to the ingenuity and creativity of the educators and scientists: they must humanize, simplify these complicated sciences and translate them into terms that are simple and practical so that the peasant people can understand and can put them into operation.
This is also a challenge to the educated and privileged youth of the colleges. They must be willing to play the part of a science-missionary, to work, to live in the barrios in order to be teachers and to bridge the tremendous gap that exists today between modern science and the peasant. It is one thing to give improved seeds to the farmers; it is quite another thing to train them to select seeds themselves. It is one thing to give drugs to the farmers for diseases; it is quite another thing to educate them to prevent diseases. The one is relief, the other is release — the release of the potential powers of the people, so they can stand on their own feet and fight against and conquer poverty and disease.
To combat diseases and hunger, science is important but science alone is not enough. If we pay attention only to science and technology but forget ideology, we may wake up one day to find that the people may have more to live on but little to live for. They may enjoy a full rice bowl, but they cease to be free men. It would be indeed tragic if we think only of the empty stomach and neglect the empty mind. While we promote science and technology to increase production and improve health, we must deliberately and vigorously push our democratic ideology.
What makes the present situation in the Philippines so hopeful is that there is an increasing awareness of the urgency and basic importance of developing the "whole man." Outstanding civic leaders representing business, banking, industry, education are backing up this movement for rural reconstruction and mass education. College presidents, professors, and scientists leave their city homes to go to the barrios to share their scientific knowledge and skills and adapt them to the simple and practical level of the peasant people. College-educated youth are dedicating themselves to become science-missionaries and freedom crusaders, living and working with the barrio people. When I watch these dedicated young men and women working, teaching, singing in the barrios with the poor and the lowly, the men make me think of St. Francis of Assisi and the women remind me of St. Clara. This is what gives us faith in the future of the Philippines and in the future of the peoples of Asia.
Distinguished members of the Board, your gracious recognition, through me, of the work of the Movement has given great encouragement to the members of our International Board in the United States and to our fellow-workers in different parts of the world. You have put steel into the hearts of our rural reconstruction workers. We are more determined than ever to extend this program of science education for the masses and the crusade for freedom to as many developing countries as we possibly can. We intend to promote national rural reconstruction movements in these countries such as we have done with our Filipino colleagues in the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement. Your generous award of US$10,000 will be added on to our International Scholarship Fund to encourage the finest young men and women to come from different developing countries to the Philippines to learn the techniques of rural reconstruction and to catch the spirit of a science-missionary and freedom-crusader.
In due time, we hope to organize these different national rural reconstruction movements into a World Federation that will serve as a global force to promote international understanding and to assist one another in this urgent and fundamental task of mass education and rural reconstruction. So friends, we accept your award not so much as an award but as a challenge. The greatest challenge of the 20th century is not the exploring of the mysteries of the outer space but the developing of the millions of God's forgotten children, the developing peoples of the world, so they can become our equal and full partners to build a better world -- a world of freedom and brotherhood.