Adel Tamano’s Commencement Speech at HLS


Salaam. Friends, this is Adel Tamano. I want to share with you my commencement speech at Harvard Law School. I graduated almost three years ago, time flies by so fast. It embodies a lot of what we are trying to do with this blog and in our own lives. JV, Danton, Gilbert, and all our web friends, I hope you find something useful in it –

Dean Kagan, the faculty and staff of Harvard Law School, the Graduating Class of 2005, our family and friends – Good Afternoon:

We begin with a caveat: If you believe that the praise and celebration are the only remarks that are appropriate for a graduation ceremony, then what I have to say will be a big disappointment.

This is not to belittle the hard work and sacrifice that we have undergone in order to be here today. For all of this and more, we deserve the warmest congratulations.

However, it would not serve us well to focus solely on our personal achievements: that would merely serve our vanity. What is more, it would be untruthful. Today’s graduation belongs as much to us as it does to our parents, spouses, relatives, and loved ones. They have sacrificed as much as we have, if not more so. They deserve equal praise for their support, love, and encouragement.

Furthermore, we must remember that our education is a great privilege. For someone like myself, a Filipino-Muslim, studying at Harvard was an unbelievable opportunity. In the predominantly Muslim areas of the Philippines, out of 10 grade-school students, only 2 will be able to complete high-school. Those in the developing world know, firsthand, that education is a truly precious commodity.

This is why our commencement today should not only be a time for self-congratulation but, more importantly, a moment for deep and sincere reflection. We must ask the essential questions of a graduate: 1) What have we learned?; and 2) Where do we go from here?

Today, we leave the comfortable and secure confines of Harvard Law School and enter the real world. It is a world of growing unilateralism, of heightened volatility in the Middle East, of mounting threats to security, of unrelenting degradation of the environment, and an ever widening gap, in economic terms, between the developed and developing nations.

What is more, we depart knowing that we have a responsibility to address these global issues. It should be emphasized that we, the members of the LL.M. Class of 2005, were not chosen from the thousands of applicants to the Graduate Program solely because of our academic or professional achievements. Instead, the choice was made with the prospect that a Harvard education would enable us to become future leaders and policymakers. Very simply, much is expected of us.

Accordingly, in order to address these global issues we must ask: what have we learned? Certainly, from the 250 courses available in the Law School, we have learned much in terms of legal theory and the substance of the Law. However, the most valuable source of education was our exposure to the diverse beliefs and cultures of men and women from over 60 nations. Indeed, the real genius of the Graduate Program is its embrace of multiculturalism and diversity.

In fact, it is this multiculturalism that will prove to be of the most benefit not only to each of us but more so to the Law School itself. This is a vital point: the very existence of the Graduate Program and the presence of legal scholars from over 60 nations is a powerful symbol and a clear reminder that no single country, race, or religion has a monopoly on good will, knowledge, or wisdom.

So where do we go from here? This is a question that each one of us, the 162 members of the LL.M. Class of 2005, will have to answer on our own and in our own time. We all desire to succeed and success itself can be defined and achieved in myriad ways. But one thing is certain – if your graduation becomes the high-water mark of your life, then you have failed to achieve the hopes of this institution. More importantly, you will have failed yourself. Again, we must never forget that much is expected of us.

I must confess that there is a personal reason for framing this speech in terms of poverty, terrorism, pollution, and world peace. I am a husband and a father of a two-year old son and when I think about the enormity of the global problems that we face, frankly, I am filled with fear and doubt. This is why I have such a personal stake in the success of our class and of the LL.M. Program itself.

Ultimately, the real value of our education will be assessed in terms of our making the world a more just, peaceful, equitable, environmentally sustainable, and tolerant place for our children.

Finally, in this world that, at times, seems so determined to destroy itself on the basis of differences in ideology, race, religion, or ethnicity, I have, nevertheless, witnessed 162 people from over 60 nations meet, initially, as strangers, then come together as classmates – who argued, debated, and, at times, vehemently disagreed – and, ultimately, become united as genuine friends. In this I find my optimism, hopefulness, and confidence. It is upon this bond of friendship and the spirit of understanding and humanity that I entrust my hopes for our future. I am truly proud to be a member of the LL.M. Class of 2005.

I thank you. I honor you. Congratulations.



  1. Jane said,

    May 1, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Welcome to the world of blogging!

    I look forward to interacting with you and other bloggers as we try to share how we can each contribute to making our country a better place.

  2. May 1, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    […] Adel Tamano’s Commencement Speech at HLS « The Opposite of Apathy […]

  3. May 1, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    […] Adel Tamano’s Commencement Speech at HLS « The Opposite of Apathy […]

  4. Isabelle said,

    May 2, 2008 at 6:09 am

    I applaud this speech, Atty. Tamano, especially because you had the courage to say this in front of 161 people from 60 different nations.
    It was the right time to speak about race, discrimination, and development. Race and discrimination is a big issue, not only in the Philippines, but everywhere in the world. It is a fact that everywhere we go, there were will always be someone different. Not all of us are the same. Our differences make us special. Our differences make u unique. What we need is to live harmoniously with one another despite our differences.
    Tomorrow is uncertain. We never know what will happen to our country. Mentioning your two-year-old son that time proved that your speech has no pretensions. I can relate to you. All of us would want to make the future beautiful for our children.
    This speech has no vanity, rather, it speaks of opportunity. You did not talk about your superior intelligence because you finished Law at Harvard.
    You took that opportunity to thank your loved ones for supporting you. You, along with 161 lucky people, were given a once in a lifetime chance to study at the premier university in the world. And because of that opportunity, you knew that you have the responsibility to your country.
    You would be the future policymaker of the Philippines. You would revolutionize the changes for the better. Good luck.

  5. dickson said,

    May 2, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Rarely do I stumble upon a written speech that is far from being a self serving one. This one rather values the remarkable impact of other people in attaining his ultimate goal. I look up to Mr. Tamano not just for having graduated with flying colors in one of the most prestigious Universities on earth, but for having such a positive outlook on the diverse environment Harvard has- something difficult to deal with basically because you get to socialize with people of different cultures and clashing beliefs. But Mr. Adel Tamano never sees it as an encumbrance in pursuing our goals, rather he treasures the genuine beauty of unity despite diversity.

  6. May 2, 2008 at 7:03 am

    A Filipino giving the commencement speech at Harvard Law is something one can be proud of. Especially a class where there are multiple races. What’s even remarkable is that the speech that Adel Tamano has delivered is entirely something rather different than the usual”thank you”. It basically says that the graduates have something to offer. That society can expect more from them. The speech that he delivered barely said something about him, as almost all graduates that give the commencement speech do. It leaves a challenge to the people, especially his batch mates. That the hard work does not stop once the diploma has been handed to you. It just starts there. After graduation, you will enter the real world. A world where there are no professors to check your work but people who will criticize everything you do. No do-overs for what’s done is done. There will be no excuses like,” I was not aware or familiar” because no one will give a damn. All that you must do is to remember what you have learned and use it to help yourself and those around who are in need of your help.

  7. May 2, 2008 at 7:20 am

    It is short but comprehensive.

    Atty. Adel Tamano, in his speech, once again proved his worth. From there, it can be drawn out a true Filipino figure – goal-oriented, fair, appreciative, humble, lighthearted and others-centered. Being one of the fortunate graduates of Harvard Law School is really an achievement, yet, it never came into his mind to boast. Instead of praising his self for such a triumph, he took the opportunity to thank all the people behind him who made it possible for him to attain what he has right now.

    The speech has heart. Though I had just read it, I certainly feel the emotions of the author. Knowing Atty. Adel being PLM’s most unique and effervescent president, he always put his self to every word he says. And what usually comes out of his mouth is what he really feels. No pretentions.

    The speech, though seemed short compared to others, has many points. It tackles on different things. He was able to address some issues that, not only the Philippines, but the entire world is facing right now. From the speech, it can be said that he was encouraging all the graduates not to end their duties from there but to treat their commencement activity as a starting point for all of them, as graduates of Harvard Law School, that they would use all their learnings and take their part as productive citizens of their respective countries.

    “…the very existence of the Graduate Program and the presence of legal scholars from over 60 nations is a powerful symbol and a clear reminder that no single country, race, or religion has a monopoly on good will, knowledge, or wisdom.”

    Those intelligent words coming from an intelligent man can prove that he possesses the qualities of an effective public servant. He has the potential to lead the Filipinos into a bright morning they have all been waiting for.

    All in all, the piece is full of hope which obviously came from a man who has a great passion to call for a change; and work for it as well towards a brand new Philippines.

  8. May 2, 2008 at 7:55 am

    It’s really inspiring when someone you know will do everything despite life’s provocations and struggles. That someone will be always be there to be the positive motivating force that would make you still smile in spite of all the hurts that we’re going through. And these things could be obviously seen in Atty. Adel Tamano’s commencement speech. His speech promises a bright future and a hopeful tomorrow. And it’s message challenges us that the end of our erudition doesn’t mean it’s the end of our responsibilities in our society, in our environment and in the world as a whole; it only means that our duties would still be passed on to us on much deeper level.
    In order to realize these things, effort is needed. Let me borrow words coming from Buffy Summers from a musicale episode of the hit TV series: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, “life’s a show and we all play our part.” Being part of this country, we should all aim for the best by starting with ourselves; by disposing at least our duties, calling and responsibilities.
    I know Atty. Adel Tamano has a promising career. I appreciate Sir Tamano’s projects and labor for the PLM community.

  9. May 2, 2008 at 9:21 am

    The speech is full of hope, inspiring and heartfelt.
    It is simple yet it has depth. We have seen more of Mr. Adel Tamano in his speech- his aspirations and sincerity. Having mentioned his two-year old son and his wife, I can say that it is indeed composed with truthfulness. It feels good that someone like him thinks that action needs to be done to help the worsening world status. It feels even better having met Mr. Tamano as our university president. I believe he has plans for PLM and for us, as students. I know for a fact that he values education much as evidenced by the statements he made in his speech and with that I give my trust that there is something great to look forward to having him in PLM.
    Moreover, I never thought of Mr. tamano being a Muslim, maybe because his physical features do not show it, until he was officially declared as our new president. It is touching of him that even he does not get to experience discrimination like what a typical Moro does, he still is up to his advocacy towards anti-racism. I believe that the case is similar to Filipinos, being discriminated by foreign countries.

  10. May 2, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Graduation Day: the most awaited moment of my life. I am very excited to march along the aisle, to come up the stage and to finally receive my diploma. Upon reading the speech of Atty. Adel Tamano, I imagined myself as one of the graduates listening in his speech.

    If I were in the shoes of Atty. Tamano, I would also offer this special day to my parents, relatives and loved ones who have also sacrificed and supported me in every hardship I’ve gone through. This is also the best moment to express our sincere gratitude for them.

    I agree on what he said that education is a great privilege, knowing that only few people are given the opportunity to study in school and avail college education. Let’s not waste our chance. Let’s grab every opportunity to show that we are responsible citizens.

    I also believe that graduation day must not always be the high-water mark of our lives, instead treat it as an initial step towards success. It is a new beginning for us to aim high and make all our dreams come true.

    Learning does not end; it is a continuous process, so we must apply all we have learned from school in real life situations. I also learned from his blog that multiculturalism and diversity are not hindrances to be united as genuine friends.

    Lastly, I realized that friendship is a great factor that influences in molding and improving one’s life, values and beliefs.

  11. Charmaine said,

    May 2, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I felt a surge of pride after reading this.
    A fellow Filipino, much more, a Muslim delivering a commencement speech at Harvard, it was just something to be proud of.
    It’s true that not everyone is given equal opportunity to a quality education. In fact, a great number of people out there could not even afford to go to school so to have been graduated from a school as prestigious as Harvard, indeed, is such a wonderful blessing.
    I remember Conan O’ Brien’s commencement speech at Harvard I read on the internet. He said that as graduate of Harvard, your biggest liability is your need to succeed. “Your need to always find yourself on the sweet side of the bell curve because success is a lot like a bright, white tuxedo. You feel terrific when you get it, but then you’re desperately afraid of getting it dirty, of spoiling it in any way.”
    But like what Atty. Adel Tamano is pointing out, I believe that the real value of education will be assessed when we leave the confines of our schools. In the real world, what will matter more than the prestige and one’s highest educational attainment is the kind of people we turned out to be and the significant things we would give to the world, regardless of how small or big they seem to be. After all, life is not about winning or losing. It’s all about how you play the game.
    This speech is full of hope especially that it came from someone who has been fighting a stereotypical society. It leaves us with a challenge to never be afraid to break the barriers that come along our way.
    Congratulations, Sir Tamano. 🙂

  12. Jose Maria Robledo said,

    May 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I love the philippines.. hehehehe

    i read it too.. and its amazing.. how can one man change my perception about politics.. all im asking to all blogers, internet users, ymers.. lets advertise this.. let’s spread it using friendster.. to all kabataan.. to all young turks.. im happy.. that changes will soon be inherit

  13. Hernando said,

    May 2, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    “Well done is better than well said.” – Ben Franklin

    Adel’s speech is excellent.

    But the Philippine problem has long been one of inaction and apathy and not the lack of intelligence. The Philippine problem is perpetuated by the powerful families and individuals that protect their own interests before the country’s.

    A thousand beautiful lines will not dent the bullet proof vehicles that are escorted by our own police.

    (Food for thought: In our country and probably other 3rd world nations, the people who threaten and harm others are well guarded, while the oppressed and abused walk the streets, vulnerable.)

    Maybe we can’t blame the majority for being apathetic.

    Ninoy had to be killed before people woke up.
    Jun Lozada now has to live with the scenario he feared: that the Filipinos would remain apathetic.
    The alleged criminals remain wealthy and free.

    I continue to propose that a strong and united group attack specific cases of corruption, extortion or abuse of power. This may be one way to change our country, one case at a time.

    Please invite Bro. Panlilio and Jun Lozada and other credible characters to join this blog and this effort.

  14. duday///PLM said,

    May 3, 2008 at 3:24 am

    After reading this blog, i can say that it somehow changed my viewpoint, but let’s face it that the real problem in this country today cannot be solved in a snap by any blog. It’s we, the Filipinos who are deteriorating our country with our attitude and political cultures.

    I am only 17 years old and as I can see, it really takes a superhero to change the situation we are in right now… whether it’s from the administration or the otherwse, how I wish they’re like a child who tends to dream so much for our country.

    C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S!!!

    ***proud to be one of Adel Tamano’s PLMayers. 🙂

  15. iya said,

    May 3, 2008 at 7:54 am

    i saw you guys (atty tamano, mayor ejercito, rep. remulla and prof danton )on a rerun of strictly politics i have to say that i applause what you guys are trying to do, to get the youth involve, so i guess that’s the reason why you used a blog as a way to try to get through to our nation’s youth.

    but i have to agree with the comment left by hernando. words matter, but actions from people who are on power are what we need. contrary to what you think, youth and young adults aren’t apathetic in regards to what is happening on our nation, we care! we might not know every details of every thing, but we are aware. but we also need the people in our government to care as well for us, as much as they care for themselves and their political ambitions but sadly they’re actions are usually instigated by personal and political goals, and “serving people” isn’t even on their agendas anymore.

    sirs, youth and young adults care, but the style of politics on this country had numbed us to inactivity. can you blame us? you said we don’t have any right to complain, if we aren’t doing anything, but what have this government done lately that had benefited the majority of it’s people? there is no doubt you sirs are intelligent, but so are majority of jobless filipinos.

    we all want change. but we need selfless, incorruptible, honest, honorable leaders. will you be that?

  16. anroinks said,

    May 3, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    The speech enlightened my thoughts. It feels good to know that there are leaders who uplift the spirit of the youth, giving us hope and privilege to act truthfully for the improvement of the society.

  17. Hernando said,

    May 5, 2008 at 4:24 am

    This blog will live or die depending on the actions that will come out of it. Expect more cynicism before 2010.

    So many little things we can improve – one by one

    A corrupt policeman (price: an angry policeman/revenge)
    …so much more cases…

    Doing good in the Philippines sometimes has a heavy price tag. And that price may be collected by an evil force.

    ACTION TO BE TAKEN? Make it MORE expensive for those doing evil to continue doing evil. (i.e. Jun Lozada and ZTE NBN Deal) Lesson learned by Filipinos: Jun Lozada did the right thing and helped the Filipinos. BUT Where is he now? And how is he going to live in peace now? Will there be more Filipinos willing to help people like Jun Lozada and other whistleblowers who exchanged their peaceful lives for the chance to have a better Philippines?

  18. engr joselito c imbao said,

    May 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    at last, i can see hope for our country, changes can only be achieved by young leaders.. sawa na ang tao sa mga datihang politikong ang direksyon ay pansarili lang, tahimik lang ang mga pilipino dahil wala namang pagpipilian.. hope to be part of achieving changes…. good luck!

  19. ekc said,

    May 8, 2008 at 11:16 pm

    in my study on describing good politics, my respondents, who were students agreed that change can only come from good leadership and governance – then the people follows.

    Many of people in this country are hoping that by doing little good things can eventually help this country progress. Bur our leaders only care about their pockets and their positions.

    Everyone I know is frustrated because of high taxes, street crimes, high prices of everything etc. Even the judiciary is so corrupt that no one trust the laws and its procedures. I have personally experienced the dirt of the system.

    We need opposition leaders with more teeth. This administration only serves itself and never the people. I hope the young turks will be able to at least discuss first critical issues especially on the judiciary.

    I am still hopeful though that true leaders will emerge in this country.

  20. Hernando said,

    May 12, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Panlilio: PNP blocking war on ‘jueteng’

    A PDI headline on 5/12/08. We have good people fighting the good fight.

    What can this group or blog to let the good people get their way?

  21. kutkut said,

    May 15, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I have a very high regards to Atty. Tamano. The speech is excellent. I assume that our brothers down south are in agreement with me. Could you delve also on certain matters that will perhaps eliminate some if not all the fodders on the cleavage between Christians and the Muslims? I have my own crowd of Muslims and we talk about those ourselves.

  22. edna1hr said,

    May 20, 2008 at 4:45 am

    The only question i would ask…can we ever really gain good governance in out times right now???? with what is happening in our country…maybe, hope so, for now…being a Filipino and a Catholic, i have great faith that we we all survive this trying times…!

  23. winky conding said,

    July 24, 2008 at 4:48 am

    What a blessing someday a very handsome and highly brilliant to lead and aspire for the best. i am totally supporting your ideals for the welfare of the filipino people and for the minority racial groups in the philippines. God bless and more power…!

  24. me said,

    August 2, 2008 at 10:43 am

    i salute Adel Tamano for his speech…

    he is really intelligent!did he recieve any honor during his graduation?

    sori just an error… im not questioning hos intelligence, no doubt he is…

    hhehehhehehe sori..

  25. marijuana said,

    September 4, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Hi Mr. Tamano,

    i just heard you from MO’s show. That was a wicked speech 🙂 i hope you keep your idealism alive in this frustrating country of ours. I hope to study in HLS too. I’ve been to Yale Law school for a visit and i was able to talk to one of its officers. I never thought i’d be patriotic until that day, when she was belittling our country. That’s when i realized napaka-hirap ipagtangol ng bansa natin kung walang good publicity. I think all they know is our infamous smokey mountain!

    there. just wanted to share my 2-cent’s worth. Good luck!

  26. Romeo said,

    September 4, 2008 at 4:48 am

    What a very moving speech. Way to go sir, showing the world that we filipinos still have the hope to be among the great minds in the world. this country needs leaders having that same mind set of using everything at their disposal to improve and alleviate the worsening condition of the country and not using the country’s resources for the betterment of themselves. Everything falls on leadership. People in the government should emulate what the late JFK said in his inauguration speech, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”.

    I heard you this morning on Goodtimeswithmo. Good Job. Keep up the good work!

  27. amiel from mindanao said,

    September 5, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    sir Adel,

    u mentioned about this speach from good times with mo..
    you inspire me a lot.. kudos!!

  28. mell said,

    September 6, 2008 at 5:04 am

    i certainly salute sir adel tamano for his speech…so brilliant of you sir…our country needs you and the likes of you…
    you are one hell of our country’s pride…keep up the good work sir and GOD SPEED…..

  29. bid4power said,

    October 23, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Heal the World Aleluya!

    Keep up your good work Mr. Adel! You’re really the kind of person this country needs! Keep inspiring the Youth! Lovelotz!

  30. Jaybee from PLM said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Sir Adel, good evening po!

    I am Jaybee po from PLM-CMC. Sir, can I just have your e-mail address.
    I looked for it in your friendster po kaya lang wala po eh, kaya dito na lang po ako nagpunta. This is regarding po our thesis. By the way, my e-mail po is and

    Sir, I hope you can help us. Thank you sir.

  31. SORAYAH ABAGA said,

    February 17, 2009 at 7:07 am

    sir adel:
    I’m almost speechless! i ran out of words 2 say to this amazing creature of god! congratulations 2 all the success coming 2 ur life, u deserve 8! goodluck and godspeed!!!

  32. Jean said,

    April 20, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Sir Adel:

    How are you? Can I have your email address? I send you a mail from kaso hindi na ata active kasi na-reject email ko sa ‘yo. Here’s my email add:


  33. Apida Dangcogan said,

    May 26, 2009 at 5:49 am

    pagaria a Atty. Adel, panguninta a dika maosar o mga politician agoso mga kababantogan a mga tao apiya anda paka poon a tao sankai a donya, so kapasang ka na porongingka ka apiya andaka song na kaaawidan ka so maratabat tano a mga maranao, maana a mga tao sa ranao.

    isako ko mga tonganayngka a tanto ruka a masisigi sabap ko kapasang ka a go kapakay pun a sabap ko kataid ka, ogaid na obangka paka lipati so bangsangka a maranao ka rongakaon mataan a maka popoon ago ronkaon bo pagundod sa akir a gawii, obaka mabimban a tanto ko orarig sangkai a donya na goso mga pud a kakayahan o mga soranga tano sa agama, suka na isaka a pamagur o mga maranao a go isaka a nanayaon a mala a paka ogop ko kipulangoin tano ko kapaka maradika agoso kapaka apas o kabunar tano a mga maranao, aya mala na so kadandan o mga muslim, panguninta ko Allah a pagomano manan iyan ruka so kalubihan a go aya mala na makowangka so masisinganin ka a mala sangkai a donya na aya mala na maka apasa ka alongan a akirat… Ameen.

    Apida Dangcogan of Saguiran Lanao del Sur (Salaam Rukasan)

  34. June 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    After reading your speech, knowing your father, Mike and your mother Zorayda enhanced my gives me initial adulation for youand your swell crafted speech which reflects your idealism and youthful dynamism. I am certain that if you win a seat in the Senate in 2010, yu can share your own vision in uplifting the despicable realities of life for our poor Muslims and Christians alike I was really exposed to with my stint as vice president in Guideco where I had many opportunities of sharing my thoughts and dreams for our people, with your father Mike. I recall he had to escape through Saudi Arabia and for a time worked as tractor trailer driver. This experience had forged strength of character and humility on his person. I want to help you win a seat in the Senate in 2010, as a veteran public relations person and politcal marketeer. I guess I have to write and reach you in you personally at PLM. Though I am my landline in case you wish to act soonest – at 82203666..

  35. hammy said,

    September 12, 2009 at 2:51 am

    you’re a great father. i hope that this country has the same parent. i also salute you for the message of your speech. somehow, it makes me realize my real goal in life.

    and for those who’re viewing this page, let us join the propaganda of “JUANA CHANGE”. let us be aware of the reality that’s really happening to us.
    please do watch her videos in youtube.

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