I deem it a great privilege and honor to be chosen to receive the Ramon
Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts
Few achievements are individual. People and institutions are shaped by the
environment in which they live and work. It is therefore the tradition of
constructive inquiry nurtured by the Indian press and its growing readership
over a century and more which I, in turn, acknowledge and uphold in
accepting this Award.
The late President Ramon Magsaysay was a distinguished son of the
Philippines, a man who felt for the common people, a leading statesman. It
is entirely fitting that the Magsaysay Foundation should have named awards
after him in the fields of government and public service, community
leadership, and international understanding. If journalism has been added to
the list, it is because Ramon Magsaysay was himself a great communicator who
well understood the role of communications in politics and development.
The press, especially in a developing society, is more than a mirror. It
stands somewhere between university and government. It has a duty to its
readers, whose confidence it has to win and whose interest it must maintain
and seek to enlarge day after day. But its true constituency is society, the
community as a whole—the illiterate, who cannot read newspapers; the
impoverished, who cannot buy them; and the underprivileged, whose problems
and aspirations need to be articulated.
Asian newspapers, indeed the media as a whole, cannot afford to be or remain
an elitist and predominantly urban phenomenon. For that would be to turn
their backs on the masses and to ignore the true message—of development and
the fight against poverty. And nowhere have the people to be educated and
organized for change more than in the countryside—in the farms and villages;
and in the slums—the vast, sprawling, inadvertent cities being spawned by
runaway rural migrants, Malthusian refugees.
Change is the law of life. But to what kind of change must the masses of
Asia aspire? Imitative change is to be avoided, and there are dangers in the
blind adoption of Western or other imported development models.
Modernization does not necessarily imply Westernization; nor should it
suggest a wholesale turning away from tradition and cultural values, shorn
of superstition and dead habit.
India, for its part, is rediscovering the message and the wisdom of Gandhi,
a man far ahead of his time. The Mahatma was concerned with the quality of
life, starting with what he called "the last man." He believed in building
from below. His goal: "To wipe the tear from every eye." He preferred
consensus to competition, emphasized right means and placed society above
At a moment in history when even the most affluent nations are in search of
an alternative society, the countries of the Third World too need to rethink
their future. Where are they headed? To what should they aspire?
In this quest our countries have much to learn from one another while
absorbing whatever is of value from elsewhere. And in this task too, the
press has its part to play. The Magsaysay Award, by focusing on Asian
experience and bringing Asians together, contributes to this purpose.
My wife, Jamila, and I are grateful to the Board of Trustees for your
gracious invitation to this ceremony and for the opportunity to visit this
beautiful country. We shall return enriched by this experience and by the
many friendships made.
For me, the Magsaysay Award will ever remain an inspiration.