Often described as “a true man of the masses,” President Ramon Magsaysay tragically died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957. He was hailed worldwide as an exceptional leader for his incorruptible integrity, his dedication to public service, and his greatness of spirit.
To preserve his legacy as a champion of democracy and to perpetuate the values that embody servant leadership, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation was established, and Asia’s premier prize and highest honor was named after him.
Six decades since his passing, Asia is faced with increasing challenges: a worldwide health pandemic that has seriously eroded economies, more intense natural disasters wrought by climate change, a veritable infodemic of fake news fueling divisiveness and the rise of strongman rule. We are also witness to the continuing crisis in Myanmar and Afghanistan, as well as the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Ukraine and Russia. Their effects are felt here as in many other parts of the world, for we are all connected.
Today gives us pause to reflect on the kind of world we wish to build and the country we hope to offer to succeeding generations.
And so today, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation applauds the many front liners who continue the fight to preserve the rule of law, respect for human rights, recognition and support for the marginalized sectors of our societies.
Today, more than ever, the words and the actions of President Magsaysay and our past laureates reverberate loudly.
Since 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award has been conferred on women and men in Asia who have promoted the common man’s fundamental rights — paths that are marked byfreedom, good governance, participative citizenship and enlightened leadership.
The Ramon Magsaysay Awards has always been about finding ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Among the hundreds of Magsaysay laureates who have held the torch high, today we especially remember:
The DALAI LAMA, world-famous man of peace who asserted that the Tibetan peoples
have a right to their culture and independence;
ARUNA ROY, a social activist who empowered millions of Indians by asserting their right to Information, right to food, and right to work;
JESSE ROBREDO, Filipino icon of good governance who demonstrated that excellence, compassion and transparency are marks of authentic servant leaders;
KOUL PANHA, a committed leader who encouraged an enlightened, organized and vigilant Cambodian citizenry to ensure fair and free elections in his country;
HABIBA SARABI, Afghanistan’s first female governor who has broken many glass ceilings so that women in her country can dream bigger!
From these amazing individuals and many more champions, we take to heart timeless lessons that will serve us well in these anxious times:
That we must seek the truth always,
That vigilance is the price of freedom,
That we can choose peace over aggression,
That to be aware of lies and injustice but to not expose them
is to abet and perpetuate inequality,
That True Power emanates from us, the people.
Hence, that the power to change our lives
and our children’s lives for the better
is in our hands.
Today, as we celebrate
the life and legacy of our beloved President Ramon Magsaysay,
we ask you to join us in remembering.
And to stand alongside us, pledging never to forget.