Monday, July 28, 2008

GRADING THE SONA


Bravo! Excellent speech, Madame President! The iron will apparent in your voice reinforced your continued support for value-added tax. Every few paragraphs were punctuated by "thank you." Brilliant touch. Give gratitude where gratitude is due. You brought along live specimens of progress: lady welders from Hanjin, a mayor in minimalist tribal costume, a budding (at 56 years old) farming magnatem as well as four wide screens for the audience's viewing pleasure. If all college lectures were like your SONA, halls and auditoriums will be packed with awestruck undergraduates poised to write those ubiquitous reaction papers.

Props to you, Madame President. You dissed popularity ratings, choosing to be the kind of unpopular president who just does her job (Ambassador Kenney even came to your defense, pointing out that President Bush lacked "pogi points" himself these days.). Then you proceeded to rattle off statistics that meant nothing to me, like high school math meant nothing to me in my days of teenage crisis. You more or less codified the Philippine situation in terms of number of RORO ports and provincial airports you opened during your term. I'm sure these things impacted the lives of many, but I have yet to talk to someone who equates the price of Gardenia bread with RORO operations.

It was a stupendous speech, Madame President. But I need your help explaining this to my students tomorrow. You see, I have the notorious habit of injecting social issues into my Literature classes, and tomorrow, I have a class on Medieval literature--The Canterbury Tales, in particular. It's a work that clearly delineates social classes, and your SONA will fit in perfectly, don't you think? I need your advice: Do i tell my students that nothing much has changed in the last 700 years? That hard work will get you where you want to go in life, but be prepared to die of exhaustion and frustration in the process? Should I divulge the idea of corruption, as in The Friar's and The Summoner's Tales, or should I delete it from my lesson plan?

You see, Madame President, I don't think of your SONA as all lies. I truly believe that our country, though in economic straits like the rest of the world (except Switzerland, I reckon), is actually making strides in practically all fronts: business, agriculture, education, health, technology. But you may have been a teensy bit selective in your data.Never mind the surveys and polls that persist to drag you and your cabunet in the muck. I am more concerned with the baby steps we are taking to ensure the progress you've been talking about. I see it this way: the country wants to move forward a hundred steps, but "kurakot" pushed it back 98 steps. That leap we want to make as a country is hampered by immorality, lack of transparency, and patronage, so all we can do is skip. I would have appreciated statistics that dealt with how much we lose to corruption. But of course your speech writer may have forgotten to encode that one.

Thank you, Madame President for your SONA. Sorry if I can't give you a grade for your efforts. There is no grading system, no rubric, to measure a speech that says so much, but achieves very little.

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