It is both with a sense of pride and humility that I
stand before you as the 1978 recipient of the Magsaysay Award for International
Understanding. To be associated in this fashion with the memory of a great human being who
was really a man of the people, concerned with the lot of the poorthe common taois
a rare honor indeed, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
But I also feel humbled, because of my awareness that whatever small contribution I may
have made is dwarfed by the magnitude of the problem of persistent poverty and human
suffering in Asia, and by the realization of how much still remains to be done.
The problem of poverty in our countries is not new. We in Asia all know it because our
eyes, our ears and our hearts tell us. Many of us have experienced it, but were lucky to
break out of the vicious circles which keep most of the poor on our continent permanently
entrapped. More generally, the nationalist movements of our countries actually sprang,
early in this century, from our awareness that there was no hope of overcoming poverty in
a colonial setting, and that only in freedom and independent nationhood would it become
possible to release the energies of our own peoples to that end. Our experience since
independence has made clear how much more intractable poverty is than we initially
thought, and how inextricably it is interwoven with problems stemming from the fragility
of our new nations, the rigidities of our social structures and the limited cohesiveness
of our transitional societies.
We now also know how woefully inadequate our knowledge and understanding is of these
problems, even though, in principle at least, science and technology properly applied
could provide us with the means to eradicate poverty from this globe.
For more than 20 years we have striven for a solution by applying Western development
models. In some cases, mostly limited to the small countries in Asia, these have worked.
They have done less well in the larger, much more populous countries, and we have not been
able to prevent the number of the absolutely poor from rising. This realization is now
forcing us towards development and industrialization strategies that are different from
those of the West. We will have to learn how to turn the massive number of rural and urban
unemployed and underemployed into our major resource. We can only do so if we put the
human being rather than projects in the center of our efforts. He should be the base, the
purpose as well as the means of development, if we are not to fail. It has become equally
clear that the active participation of the poor in each of our countries' development is
an essential condition for its achievement. Also, we know such participation must be
voluntary and self organized, on the basis of restored self-confidence and hope among the
poor and the weak. We are all still groping as to how to do this. But it is already
obvious that only through our wrestling with these problems of poverty and demography,
through our search for an autonomous development trajectory that is inspired by our human
compassion and by our commitment to freedom and social justice, can we hope to grow into
the more humane, prosperous, just and moral societies we all so fervently want. It is
through this experience that our nations and our cultures will renew themselves. It is
through this struggle that our national and cultural identities will be transformed,
redefined and strengthened from within, in ways which may be meaningful to, and compatible
with, others in the world. For no longer can any nation work out its salvation in
Rich or poor, strong or weak, we are all bound to share the burden of each other's
The Magsaysay Award, as an expression of the Foundation's own commitment to these values,
will undoubtedly provide continuous encouragement to those in Asia devoted to these ends,
as I have been. Once again, I want to thank you.