Multiple Sides, Different Views of Samantha’s Story

Samantha Smith (1972-1985) was known as “America’s young ambassador for goodwill” for bridging the two sides of the Cold War through her 1982 letter to then-Soviet leader Yuri Andropov (1914-1984) where she asked him whether his country would launch a nuclear war, his April 1983 reply assuring her that the country would not and inviting her to come to the Soviet Union to “see for [herself that] in the Soviet Union, everyone is for peace and friendship among peoples,” which she and her family accepted and undertook in July 1983. This post is the fifth in a series of retrospectives, which will run until August 2015, the 30th anniversary of her death, along with her father Arthur and six others, in a plane crash in August 1985.

Today’s retrospective presents different views of Samantha Smith – her life, the context, and the circumstances behind her letter to Yuri Andropov and subsequent popularity – both in favor and against. These interpretations are from people with different levels of prominence and influence (from world leaders, commentators, and ordinary people). This isn’t an attempt to cover all views, mainly only English ones. If I may have missed one article, if you translated one non-English opinion, or if you wish to share your views on the matter, feel free to comment on this post.

Bridge between two peoples and capability to influence events

After Andropov replied to Samantha’s letter in 1983, the Chicago Tribune published a letter to the editor by Stuart Oliver of Oakland, where he wrote that Samantha’s letter and Andropov’s reply could signal the start of a new relationship between the two superpowers, particularly people-to-people. He even asked her to write another letter, this time to Soviet children, urging them to write to US President Reagan about their feelings on war and peace.

When Samantha died in 1985, then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote to Jane Smith, Samantha’s mother, that the Soviet people would remember Samantha as the American girl who yearned for peace and friendship between the peoples of the USA and the USSR. Reflecting 30 years after Samantha’s trip to the Soviet Union at the invitation of his mentor Yuri Andropov, Gorbachev said (in the article by Lena Nelson, webmaster of

“I was very concerned at the time with what was happening,…and once I assumed the post of the General Secretary I immediately set out to renew contacts at the highest level. During his second presidential term, Ronald Reagan too understood that it was best to go down in history as someone who stood for peace, rather than for war.”

Once, during one of the summits, Gorbachev recalls telling Reagan: “Mr. President, I have a feeling that our people have a better grasp of the situation and are able to come to an understanding sooner than you and I can. If this continues, they will fire us.”

In 1996, attorney Edgar Heiskell III (also a family friend of the Smiths and was a member of the Advisory Board of the Samantha Smith Foundation) said that Samantha demonstrated the ability of individuals have the ability to influence world events, “[serving] as a catalyst to the whole dialogue between the Soviets and the Americans, which led to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit.”

This was also a point raised by Josie Huang, writing twenty years after Samantha’s trip to the Soviet Union, adding that both Samantha’s admirers and critics could agree to this and that her visit “served as a precursor to glasnost, the official Soviet policy of ‘openness’.” Huang then mentioned the opinions of different people, all positive with some negative ones tempering through time:

“The public images of the Soviet Union and United States began to improve dramatically” after her visit, said Andrew Kuchins, head of the Russian and Eurasian program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. “She might have unexpectedly been a harbinger of things to come.”

“I think her legacy was not just for good relations between the United States and the Soviet Union” but for peace in general, said George Mitchell, the former U.S. Senate majority leader from Maine, who promoted better relations with the Soviets after Samantha’s death.

“While adversaries of change and issues have changed, there is still a hope and desire to have peace among people and not just in this country,” Mitchell said.

Comparisons to Samantha’s work have been made to Seeds of Peace, a program that brings teenagers from Israel, Palestine and other hot spots in the world to work out conflicts in Otisfield.

Indeed, John Wallach, the late founder of Seeds of Peace, liked to call Samantha part of Maine’s peace heritage, along with Mitchell and former U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie.

Similarly, peace activists have made her a role model, making her statue a stopping point during peace rallies against the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Everyone – from students at Samantha Smith Elementary School in Sammamish, Wash., to high-powered leaders of humanitarian groups and people who remember her exploits – calls her an inspiration.

“I look at Samantha Smith as the child who says the emperor’s not really wearing any clothes,” said Tandy Ratliff, a 32-year-old mother of two from South Portland who, inspired by Samantha, traveled to the Soviet Union as a teenager.

“She was saying the Soviet Union’s not really evil and everybody else said, ‘Maybe, she’s right.'”

There is still debate about whether Samantha was exploited by government operatives from either of the countries.

That was the mindset of Andrij Krockhmaluk of Richmond, a first-generation Ukrainian-American whose father, a journalist and publisher, was imprisoned by the Soviet government.

Krockhmaluk was certain Samantha’s visit was a public relations stunt set up by the Communists to showcase an “openness that didn’t exist” and overshadow the oppression faced by peasants.

But time has tempered his opinion. “She was a lovable young lady and if she won over a few hearts, more power to her,” said Krockhmaluk, now 58.

Kuchins, who was a graduate student when Samantha visited the Soviet Union, agreed: “At the time, I shared the cynical view that she was being used principally by the Soviets for propaganda. But on the other hand she’s so cute and attractive and it was such a nice story, who cares? She transcended the propaganda.”

Bonnye Good wrote in a article in 2012/2013 that Samantha’s letter could not have come at a better time, “as both American and Soviet leaders privately exhibited interest in lessening the Cold War’s chilling effects during the 1980s, but public rhetoric heightened concerns that war could happen.” She added that, “unexpectedly benefiting public relations”, the heartfelt sentiment in Samantha’s letter warmed the impressions the citizens of the USA had on that of the USSR and vice-versa. Finally, she concluded that Samantha’s story served as a reminder that children willing to keep track of world events and ask important questions could accomplish beneficial work.

Propaganda stunt and childish delusion for peace

Cartoon by Jim Borgman, 1983

Criticisms of Samantha and the Soviet leadership were not only conveyed in text, but through visuals as well. This editorial cartoon, by Jim Borgman of the Cincinnati Enquirer, is one example. The Political Cartoons section of the archive includes other editorial cartoons, some of them with a similar premise to the one in the image (source).

Citizen Diplomats by Gale Warner and Michael Shuman, published in 1987, recounts criticisms of Samantha and the Soviet Union’s motives behind the letter.

But even as millions of people on both sides of the Cold War…falling in love with Samantha, others were plainly irritated by this…squeak who had dared infiltrate the adult world of diplomacy. [Even]…the staff writers of People Magazine were scrambling to get to [Manchester]…and find out the names of Samantha’s dog and cats, scores of [editors]…chastised the American people for being duped into believing that…[Andropov’s] message might be sincere.

While no editorialists went so far as to suggest that Samantha…was devious,the Soviets were castigated for taking advantage [of]…Samantha’s naiveté. U.S. News and World Report ran a story by [Nicholas] Daniloff bluntly headlined: “Samantha Smith: Pawn in Propaganda [War]”. Opined the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Although the letter surely [provided] Samantha with an enormous thrill, it nevertheless was a [manipulative] and exploitative thing to do to an innocent ten-year-old.” A [Japanese] newspaper cartoon portrayed Samantha as Little Red Riding Hood and Andropov as the Wicked Wolf.

The entire correspondence. went a prevailing theory, had [been orchestrated] by the Soviets to help lull the American people into [believing] that the Soviets desire peace, while designs to take over the world pro…apce within the Kremlin. Some speculated that the letter and [invitation] were the results of months of planning: KGB agents snooping at Maine had profiled the Smiths. decided that Samantha had just the combination of poise, pulchritude, and peaceful rhetoric. and then…word to pluck her letter from the pile. Others took a less extreme…saying that the Soviets had probably had nothing so grandiose in…when they first printed Samantha’s letter in Pravda, but, noting…Western press’s response to the letter’s publication, had smelled a…public-relations move, and were simply lucky to have picked a [child]…capable of handling the media blitz. (p.16)

After Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down in September 1983, the AIM Report criticized Samantha’s visit to the Soviet Union for failing to “accurately” understand the mentality of Soviet leaders (This criticism is similar to Claren 2003, detailed later):

The little Maine schoolgirl, Samatha Smith, was invited to the Soviet Union after the Kremlin propagandists decided to use her letter to dictator Yuri Andropov to demonstrate how the Soviet Union loves peace. Young Samantha’s red carpet tour was given extensive media coverage in this country even though the American reporters in the USSR understood very well that it was all carefully orchestrated to serve the ends of Soviet propaganda. The message was that the Russians are just like us. This is phoney understanding. The tours of the New England newspaper editors and Samantha Smith did nothing to help them understand the mentality that led to the Korean Airlines massacre. Indeed. the opposite was true. What we need is greater understanding that the Soviet Union is ruled by men who are not just like us. They are cruel, ruthless men who don’t share our [Judeo-Christian] values. On the contrary, they are doing their best to extirpate them from the face of the earth. Talking to them will never alter that. Ostracizing them and neutralizing their propaganda machine might.

After the publication of Journey to the Soviet Union in early 1985, Susan Stobaugh of The Boston Phoenix wrote that there was “something wrong with adults who think any child has a contribution…to complex issues of foreign relations,” writing sarcastically:

If one needed further proof that Smith hasn’t much to contribute to the debate on foreign affairs, simply look at her book’s descriptions of life inside Russia. I bet there are a lot of Jewish kids or peasant kids or just plain kids in that country who’d be delighted to know that talent is the ticket into the posh Soviet resort where Smith spent a week. Naturally, it has noting to do with whether your parents are high muck a mucks in the Communist Party. And that Yuri Andropov, he’s a nice guy, too. He told Samantha that Russians want to cooperate with all their neighbors, with those far away and those nearby. I know that will be good news to the Afghanis. I’m sorry Father Popieluszko [of Solidarność in Poland] isn’t alive to hear it (links supplied).

In Useful Idiots: How Liberals Got It Wrong in the Cold War and Still Blame America First (excerpt available here), Mona Claren (2003) criticized Ellen Goodman’s article from 1985 praising Samantha’s directness in writing to Andropov, “before diplomacy breeds directness out of them, before cynicism and a sense of powerlessness sets in” (Goodman’s words). Claren argued that many American wishful thinkers failed to shed this “childish sense of directness” and recognize the necessity “to protect oneself with weapons against those who have evil intentions,” instead “preferring to call self-delusion and childishness ‘idealism’.” She also dismissed the notion that the Cold War occurred because of “misunderstandings” between the two sides, but because “the Soviets were aggressive and predatory, and the United States (along with its allies) sought to thwart it” (compare with the AIM Report from two decades earlier, detailed earlier).

Finally, Claren contrasted Samantha with that of Irina Tarnopolsky:

Samantha Smith had one more imitator, but this one did not get worldwide attention and acclaim. Irina Tarnopolsky, age twelve, heard about Andropov’s correspondence with the American girl, and was inspired to write a letter of her own to the Soviet leader. She wrote to Yuri Andropov pleading for him to release her father from prison. Yuri Tarnopolsky, a research chemist who taught at Krasnoyarsk, had applied for an exit visa for himself, his wife, and their daughter. Permission was refused and Tarnopolsky was dismissed from his position as a professor. Tarnopolsky then joined other Soviet Jews in agitating for freedom of emigration. He also smuggled out a book of poetry which was published in France. At this, he was arrested and sentenced to three years in a labor camp for “slandering the Soviet system.” He was also accused of “parasitism” by the KGB — for being out of work.

Irina never became an international celebrity.

In reviewing Elliot Holt‘s You Are One of Them, Jesse Baron of the New York Observer wrote briefly of Samantha, “By the time of her death, Ms. Smith had already started to seem like a younger Rachel Corrie, naïve and overprivileged, with good intentions but no clue.”

Some ordinary Americans also wrote letters to the Smiths warning them against the Soviets’ motives. Citizen Diplomats recalls one such letter, from a “Mrs. John Smith,” with no return address:

You lovely, sweet people must wake up and smell the coffee! You are all as gullible as two-year-olds taking candy from strangers. The Russians say the word ‘peace’ and you grab at it, and at them, like candy. Yes, they want peace – but how? Under their terms! They want to dominate the world and that includes us. Doesn’t that frighten you? They will never change. They have used you poor people and my heart aches for you because you have been so blind (p. 25).

Role in ending the Cold War?

With the end of the Cold War coming only a few years after Samantha’s letter, opinion on her role in it is similarly mixed. In April 2014, RchrdStvr posted in the Science Philosophy Chat Forums, “By opening the door to discussion, an act of diplomacy Reagan refused to consider, 10 year old Samantha brought out the human side of Andropov and effectively ended the cold war.” Replies to the topic, however, have ranged from pointing to other reasons (i.e. the Soviet Union not being able to keep up with the arms race) to the lack of both research and analysis with the argument.

Several comments in the Yahoo! feature (archived here) placing Samantha side by side with other “unlikely foreign ambassadors” such as Dennis Rodman (to North Korea), Sean Penn (to Haiti), and George Clooney (to Darfur) dismissed the possibility Samantha may have contributed in ending the Cold War:

Comment A: I never saw Smith as having anything to do with ending the cold war.

B: Samantha Smith helped end The Cold War? Please!

C: This chick had absolutely zero to do with the “thawing” of the Cold War. The “thawing” occured for one reason, and one reason only…..Ronald Reagan. These Liberal pinheads are revolting.

D: She had nothing to do nor did anyone else have anything really to do with ending the Cold War. We outspent the USSR in the arms race, that’s the only reason.

E: This is feel good stuff, this girl had NOTHING to do with the end of the cold war.

F: We all know who really helped to thaw the Cold War. Ronald [Reagan] and his no-nonsense hardball style diplomacy, and Gorbachev trying to bribe Russians with just enough freedom to satisfy them, yet keep himself in power.

G: Samantha Smith’s letter did absolutely nothing to thaw the cold war. What it did was to briefly catapult her into the spotlight that indirectly led to her own death and that of her father. Yes, the death of any little girl is tragic. No, she left no legacy on the world stage, however the media might want to make it sound that way.

Samantha on herself

A year after her Soviet Union trip, Samantha said, “I never thought it would result in all this….I hope it’s done some good for our country. Otherwise, it’s been a lot of fun traveling.”

In April 1985, Gale Warner asked Samantha and her parents their opinions on the issues raised above. These were eventually documented in the chapter about her in Citizen Diplomats. Regarding accusations that she was a propaganda pawn, Samantha said:

Well, I think they were using me. but it was propaganda for peace. I mean, what were they doing it for, so that they could have a war? It doesn’t exactly fit together. So it was propaganda for peace, to get me over there so I could see what it was like, and come back and tell people how nice it was. (p. 17)

Recounting when people ask her whether the whole thing was set up, she replied:

Well, of course they did. I mean, what are they going to do, show me the grossest parts of all, or just let me wander around on my own. Of course not. If I had a new friend come over to my house, I wouldn’t take them down in the basement where it was all cluttered. Here [is] an invitation from the Soviet premier, and what are they supposed to do, tell me to get lost or something? I’m sure they’re going to say, here are some tickets, go have a good time, ‘bye. (p. 19, italics not mine, but from source text)


Youth Response to “Securing the Country’s Future: A Summit for Change”

Delivered 22 July 2015

To former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former Secretary Jun Enriquez of Budget and Management and of Finance, sa mga bumubuo ng Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa Movement, to the individual and organizational participants of today’s summit, to the different sectors, isang malaya, mapayapa, at magandang hapon sa ating lahat.

Buong kababaang-loob ko pong ikinararangal ang mapiling magsalita para sa kabataan sa pagtatapos ng summit ngayong hapon. Pero batid ko pong kasama sa karangalang ito ang dalawang tungkulin – ang tungkuling kilalanin at suriin ang hakbang na dapat gawin at ang tungkuling hikayatin ang kabataang Pilipino na yakapin ang nararapat na hakbang at ang mga kaakibat nitong responsibilidad.

Nakasalalay ang kinabukasan ng Pilipinas at lahat ng Pilipino sa summit na ito at sa lahat ng kilos para maisakatuparan ang napagkasunduan ngayong hapon. Sana’y malinaw sa ating mga kalahok ang dapat gawin: ipanawagan sa Pangulo, sa Kongreso, at sa ating bayan na napapanahon na ang pagpupulong ng isang kumbensyon o con-con para baguhin ang Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas. Para sa aking kapwa kabataan, alam ba natin na merong ganitong pagtitipon ngayon? Aaminin ko, kung hindi ako naimbitahan ng aking kaibigang si Jerome dela Cruz na magsalita, hindi ko malalaman na meron palang kilusan at ganitong summit. Palakpakan po natin siya. At medyo kinabahan ako nang malamang pagbabago pala ng Saligang Batas ang nais ng Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa Movement. Pero sa huli, hindi tayo dapat matakot na yakapin ang pagbabago, kung ito ang unang hakbang tungo sa ikauunlad ng ating bansa at ng ating mga kababayan.

Alam kong hindi basta-bastang aklat lamang ang hawak ko ngayon [raise the 1987 Constitution]. Bagkus, mahalaga ang ating Saligang Batas dahil dito nag-uugat hindi lamang ng istruktura ng ating pamahalaan kundi ng buong lipunan. Sa kanya nakasalalay ang mga kalayaan ng bawat Pilipino, at siya ang nag-aatas ng mga batas at mga adhikaing dapat isakatuparan ng ating Estado. The Constitution is the fundamental and supreme law of the land, an expression of the people’s will as sovereign, and defines not only the balance of power in government but also the arrangement and aspirations of society.

In fairness to our present Constitution, it has been able to perform its intended purpose: to rebuild and strengthen the institutions of Philippine democracy in the shortest time possible after predominantly one-man rule. Let us go back to our history, let us know about it and learn from its lessons. In June 1986, the Constitutional Commission that drafted our present Charter convened for the first time. Its mission? “To hasten the return of normal constitutional government”.[1] Tungkulin ng Komisyong makabuo ng Saligang Batas nang sa gayo’y makapanumbalik ang ating bayan sa normal at demokratikong sitwasyon. The present Constitution guaranteed that no person can ever abuse the powers of government ever again, mandated safeguards and institutions to eradicate graft and corruption, provided for a bill of rights that respected people’s freedoms and policy declarations that the State shall pursue to face the issues of economic development, poverty alleviation, labor, education, and the development of the country’s societal institutions.

Pero, marami nang mga suliraning kailangang harapin na wala pa naman dalawampu’t walong taon na ang nakakaraan. Nandyan ang globalisasyon at ASEAN integration at ang mga kahihinatnan nito, ang pagbabago sa klima ng mundo at ang mga sakunang dala nito (lalo na sa mga bansang gaya natin), at ang pang-aagaw ng ibang bayan sa ating lupain na nagaganap sa loob mismo ng ating bakuran. Patuloy din ang mga suliraning kinaharap noong panahong binubuo ang ating Konstitusyon: ang kahirapan at kagutuman, ang kawalan ng trabaho sa kabila ng paglago ng ekonomiya, ang paghahari ng sentro habang konting pansin lang ang nabibigay sa kanayunan, ang patuloy na pangingibabaw ng mga dinastiyang pulitikal sa halos lahat ng mga pulo ng ating bansa, at ang pagiging mailap ng kapayapaan para sa ating mga kapatid na Muslim, Kristiyano, at lumad o indigenous people sa Mindanao. Halimbawa, hahayaan ba nating masayang ang lahat ng pagsisikap para sa tunay na kapayapaan, dahil lamang hindi tugma sa ating kasalukuyang Konstitusyon ang pinapanukalang batas at pamahaalang parlamentaryo para sa Bangsamoro? It is precisely for our brothers and sisters that we must ensure legal technicalities or limitations will not interfere or thwart the road towards a just and lasting peace in our country.

Sabi nga ni retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno nang ilunsad ang Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-asa Movement noong isang buwan, “Para tayong nasa isang barko, isang barko na napakarami ng butas….[Tapalan man natin ang isang butas], kung hindi natin tatapalan ang iba pa, lulubog at lulubog po ang barko—at iyan po ang bayan natin.”[2] Nais ko pong dagdagan ang ginamit niyang analohiya. Iba na ang uri at lakas ng mga along humahampas sa barko ng ating bayan sa kasalukuyan sa mga alon ng lumipas na panahon. Nararapat na marahil pagtibayin ang ating barko gamit ang ibang materyal, o kaya’y gumawa ng panibagong barko, para harapin ang mga alon at makarating sa nais nating mapuntahan bilang isang lahi, bilang isang bansa. Magagawa lamang ito kung mag-aambag ang lahat ng Pilipino, kung makikilahok tayo at ang ating mga pinuno sa paghuhulma at pagpapatibay ng bagong kasunduan, ng Covenant.

We have already put into place multiple solutions, all the while mindful of the limits in our Charter. We have already persevered through our belief in the Creator and our hard work. In the face of adversity, we have held our ground countless times. Sabi nga pagkatapos ng bagyo, the Filipino spirit is waterproof. But until when and how far ahead can our resilience take us?

The Constitution must not be seen as a straitjacket. Rather, it must be allowed to evolve and be of service to the issues and challenges confronting the present. Kailangan nitong magbago upang makasunod tayong Pilipino sa panahon. Kung hindi, mawawalan lamang ito ng saysay, at mawawalan ng saysay ang lahat ng pinaplanong hakbang para mapaunlad ang ating bayan at lipunan. If a Constitutional Convention and a revision of the Constitution are the steps necessary toward finally addressing many of the country’s long-running ills, then let us not hesitate to call for it. Hindi na pwede ang “pwede na”.

Now that the summit has shown us that the time is ripe for a Constitutional Convention, it’s time I talk about the role the youth will and must play in sounding for its need and in the Convention itself. Why the youth? The reason is simple. There is a need to infuse fresh blood, young heart, and new perspectives to our system. Where else do we start but on the roots? Saan tayo magsisimula kung hindi sa mismong ugat?

Ano ba ang responsibilidad nating kabataan? Balikan ulit natin ang kasaysayan. For the longest time, attempts of changing the Constitution have been feared. Baka daw magamit para pahabain ang pananatili sa kapangyarihan ng sinumang namumuno sa pamahalaan. But, there is nothing to fear, as long as the new Constitution is drafted properly and with no selfish intentions, obvious or hidden. Thus, we, the youth, have the responsibility of safeguarding the integrity of the proceedings. We must ensure that genuine debate takes place on the halls of the Convention, and not railroading or the prevalence of interests other than that of the people as a whole.

But procedure must be followed by substance. Abutin natin ang kapwa mga Pilipino sa buong kapuluan, mula Batanes at Tawi-Tawi. Hingin at pakinggan natin ang kanilang mga hinaing at hangad na maginhawa, masagana, at mapayapang buhay. At siguraduhin nating makakarating ang kanilang tinig sa mga bubuo sa ating Saligang Batas. Ito na ang pagkakataon. O mas maganda pa, tulungan natin silang maparating mismo sa ating mga pinuno at sa mga gagawa ng ating bagong Saligang Batas ang kanilang sitwasyon at kahilingan. We must transcend our limitations, know about our countrymen, speak out, and be heard.

There have been many debates for the past few hours, and let’s admit it for the past few years, about the seven-point plan: restructuring government, distributing powers, reforming the electoral system, broadening the inclusiveness of growth, promoting social equity and equality, strengthening accountability and integrity, and safeguarding territorial integrity and peace and order. All discussions have yielded various insights and solutions that merit further study and debate. Maybe changes in our present electoral system will lead to opening up the venues of power for those who do not have the family or star-quality names or resources but have the best intentions and best actions for the good of our people. Perhaps the reforms can go hand in hand with each other. Maybe a change in the system and distribution of powers will lead to a more responsive government, speeding much needed social services, finally strengthening the periphery or the rural areas, and weeding out corruption and patronage once and for all.

Although I feel strongly in favor of certain features for the new fundamental law of the land, I cannot impose what the youth as a whole and what 100 million Filipinos should think and accept is necessary. Wala po sa kamay ng iisang o iilang tao, o sa iisa o iilang pamilya lamang ang mga sagot sa mga hamon sa  Pilipinas. Pero ano ba ng mga hamon natin? Paano ba natin sila masosolusyonan? Masasagot lamang natin ang mga tanong na ito kung makikilahok ang bawat Pilipino. Binanggit ko na kanina ang malalaking isyu, pero hindi lang iyan. Napakarami pang mga problema na naghihintay lang na mabigyang-pansin, mapagkabit-kabit, at mabigyang-tugon. Hindi dapat maging hadlang ang ating edad, pinagmulan, napag-aralan, at katayuan sa buhay sa pagbabalangkas ng panibagong Konstitusyon na magiging malaking hakbang para matugunan ang mga hinaing at adhikain ng bayan.

It must be the duty of each Filipino to think, to study, to propose, and to fight for the constitutional reforms they believe would be for the betterment of the Philippines in the long term.

Huwag nating hayaan ang pagkakataong ito na lumipas, habang busilak ang intensyon ng mga tumatawag ng pagbabago, habang wala naman sa kanila ang naghahangad ng kapangyarihan sa susunod na halalan. Bagkus, pang-matagalan at para sa lahat ng Pilipino ang kanilang pinaninidigan at pinaglalaban.

Tayo na kabataan! Tayo na mga Pilipino, yakapin ang kinabukasang para sa atin at mga susunod na salinlahi. Ialay natin ang ating dunong, galing, at higit sa lahat, dangal. Mabuhay at maraming salamat!


[2] Read here.

Clarifications on the article “UP’s top grad takes a dig at PNoy, Binay, joins Puno’s Cha-cha”

While they have not yet been posted on the article itself, I post these points here in my blog in the interim. I have already sent these on 21 July to the author, who I respect and admire greatly, and I hope that these be included as they are worded here at the end of the article.

These points are based on my and my sister’s recollections of the interview, which I wrote down as soon as I arrived home.

  1. I only knew about the existence of the summit or the Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pag-Asa Movement on 10 July (not last June before graduation) when my UP batch mate, Jerome dela Cruz, invited me to speak and participate for tomorrow’s summit.
  2. I was not able to hear Chief Justice Puno’s speech in Malate when the movement was launched last 6 June (not May). I only read his speech as sent to me by Jerome (and is available here).
  3. The quote attributed to me in the article, “I learned a lot inside Malacanang,” he said, of his ring-side view of the working style inside the Palace, “including (lessons showing) that the President’s ‘daang matuwid’ is not that straight, after all.” made it appear that I learned from my experiences in the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) that the President’s path was not that straight. I did not learn that from the PMS. Rather, I realized it way after and despite my time in PMS, by carefully studying and analyzing the present situation of our country and its direction. What I learned in PMS is the burdensome nature of work for supplying papers and briefings to the Presidency, which I mentioned during the interview, and the need for due diligence. No one from the PMS gave me that impression. I apologize for any bad faith imputed to the PMS and to everyone at the Economic Policy Office (where I was assigned) by the quote attributed to me.

Emir Mendoza

On Peace and the Bangsamoro – How the UP Graduate Can Advocate for Peace and Excellence

Author’s note: I am gradually posting all the speeches I had the opportunity to deliver in various events from the first half of 2015. This was the most difficult speech I had to deliver.

Theme: How the UP Graduate Can Advocate for Peace and Excellence

Joint convocation of the three honor societies of the University of the Philippines: Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma, and Pi Gamma Mu

Delivered in behalf of Phi Kappa Phi

20 April 2015

(Non-verbatim transcript)

Sa mga opisyal ng mga honor society na narito ngayon: ang Phi Kappa Phi, Pi Gamma Mu, at Phi Sigma, sa iba pang mga tagapagsalita at opisyal ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, at sa aking kapwa mga mag-aaral na binibigyang-pugay ngayon, magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! Sumaatin nawa ang kapayapaan at pagpapala ng Mapagmahal na Panginoon.

Dalawang buwan na lang mula ngayon, makakamit na natin ang ating pinag-sumikapan at pinaghirapan sa loob ng siguro’y higit pa sa apat o limang taon dito sa kolehiyo. Sa wakas, maisusuot na natin ang sablay, makakapagpa-picture na tayo kasama ang Oblation at mga sunflower, at masasabi natin sa ating sarili: “I survived UP!”

Subalit, kasabay ng ating pagtatapos ang paglisan mula sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas at pagharap sa panibagong hamon ng buhay. Marami sa atin ang kailangan nang magtrabaho nang full-time para makatulong sa mga gastusin sa pamilya at makapag-ipon. Patuloy namang mag-aaral ang iba sa atin sa mas mataas na antas o kurso tulad ng medisina, abogasya, edukasyon, siyensya, pamamahala, atbp. Pinapangarap natin ngayon, na sa pagdaan ng panahon, matatamo natin ang mga personal at propesyunal na layunin, ang kagustuhan ng ating mga mahal sa buhay, at ang ating mga adhikain para sa bayan at sa ating mga kababayan. Sa puntong ito, hawak natin ang ating kapalaran. Tayo ang susulat sa mga pahina ng ating kwento. Nasa kamay natin kung ipagpapatuloy man o hindi ang tagumpay na ating natatamasa ngayon.

Sa lahat ng ating gagawin, ipagpatuloy natin ang tradisyon ng dunong at galing. Paghusayan natin sa anumang karera na ating papasukin. Pero kailangan ay hindi lang galing sa isip, kundi galing din sa budhi o konsensiya. Ngayon pa lang, tinitingala na tayo bilang susunod na mga lider ng ating henerasyon. Paano pa kaya kung ipinagkatiwala sa atin ang kapangyarihang pamunuan ang ating bayan? Mahalagang tanggapin natin ang hamong maging tapat na lingkod sa lahat ng mga Pilipino. Nasa pamahalaan man tayo o hindi, tutulan at iwasan natin nang walang pag-alinlangan ang mga gawing tinutuligsa natin ngayon. Huwag tayong matakot na ibalita ang mga mali sa sistema. Tandaan na dala natin hindi lang ang sariling pangalan kundi pati ang pangalan ng ating minamahal na Unibersidad ng Pilipinas.

Matatayog pa ang ating mga pangarap. Sa pagsuot ng ating sablay at sa pag-abot sa atin ng ating mga diploma, palapit na tayo ng palapit sa mga pangarap na dati’y hinuhulma lamang natin sa ating mga isipan. Mas maliwanag na para sa atin ang tatahaking landas.

Subalit, para sa marami sa ating mga kababayan, nagdilim na ang daan tungo sa hinahararap.  Kasama po diyan ang ating mga kababayang nasasadlak sa kahirapan. Hindi na nila kayang tustusan ang pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan at ang pagtaguyod sa kinabukasan ng kanilang mga anak. Paano pa kaya kung araw-araw kinakatakot nilang mawawasak na ang mundong kanilang kinagisnan? Kung saan hindi sila makabalik sa kanilang mga tahanan sa takot na baka malagay sa panganib ang kaligtasan nila at kanilang mga anak? Kinamkam na nga mula sa kanila ang pagkakataong mangarap at umunlad, pilit pang inaagaw sa kanila ang pagkakataon tungo sa kapayapaan.

Noong 2012, lumagda ang pamahalaan at ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front o MILF sa Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, na sinundan pa ng ibang mga kasunduan, kabilang na ang para sa decommissioning o pagbubuwag sa hukbo ng MILF noong Enero 2014. Tila abot-kamay na ang kapayapaan nang mangyari ang trahedya sa Mamasapano. Simula noon, nagkaroon na ng pag-aalinlangan sa pinapanukalang Bangsamoro Basic Law at sa bisa ng prosesong pangkapayapaan. Ang ilan nga sa ating mga namumuno, tila ginagamit ang kawalan raw ng tiwala at ang paggamit ni Ginoong Mohagher Iqbal chief negotiator ng MILF ng alias o ibang pagkakakilanlan para buwagin na ang kasunduan. Oo, dapat may managot sa pagkamatay ng 44 kasapi ng PNP Special Action Force at sa iba pang mga biktima ng diumano’y “misencounter” noong Enero 25, 2015. Pero kailangan bang madiskaril ang prosesong pangkapayapaan dahil dito? Ano ang magiging resulta kung babalik ang lahat sa all-out war? Walang mananalo, sa halip, talo tayong lahat: ang mga kababayan nating Moro, mga Kristiyano, at mga lumad sa Mindanao at lahat ng Pilipino, pati tayong naririto ngayon. Hindi makakamit ang kapayapaan gamit ang karahasan; bagkus, sasapit lamang ito sa pamamgitan ng pang-unawa.

Mga kapwa kamag-aral, laban rin natin ang pagsisikap ng ating mga kababayang nasasadlak sa kaguluhan na manatiling buhay sa kabila ng karahasan at digmaan. May paniniwala ang ating mga kababayang Aeta na hindi mo pwedeng sabihing gumiginhawa ang buhay mo kung nakikita mong nahihirapan ang iyong kapwa. Pero hindi pa huli ang lahat. May magagawa tayo. Tila imposible, lalo na’t bata pa lang tayo. Sabi nga ng mga nakatatanda, sila pabalik na habang tayo’y papunta pa lang. Pinalad tayong makapagtapos mula sa pinakaprestihiyosong unibersidad sa buong Pilipinas. Maraming bintana ng oportunidad ang bukas sa atin, at mataas ang pagkakataong makamit natin ang minimithing tagumpay. Pero kaakibat ng pagiging UP graduate, responsibilidad nating ipagalaban ang karapatan ng ating mga kababayan tungo sa ligtas at maginhawang kinabukasan. Nasa ating mga kamay na palawakin ang kanilang mga opsyon tungo sa mas maunlad na buhay.  Bilang iskolar ng bayan, ipinagkatiwala sa atin ang kapangyarihan  para makisangkot sa prosesong pangkapayapaan, para maiparinig sa ating mga pinuno ang pagtutol sa patuloy na paghahari ng lagim, at para itaguyod ang tunay na tiwala at kooperasyon tungo sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran.

Nagawa nga nating higitan pa ang ating mga hangganan at limitasyon habang tayo’y nasa loob ng Unibersidad. Ngayon naman, higitan natin ang ating magagawa para sa Pilipinas, tungo sa kabutihan, kapayapaan, katarungan, at kaunlaran. Ano pa’t tinawag tayong Iskolar ng Bayan kung hindi natin pagsisilbihan ang mga mamamayang naging dahilan kung bakit tayo narito lahat ngayon? Itaguyod natin sa ating personal at propesyunal na buhay ang pagtatayo ng mapayapa at sumusulong na lipunan, kung saan maaari nating makamit ang ating mga personal na pangarap at maaari ring makamit ng mga kababayan nating nasasadlak sa kaguluhan ang kanilang mga adhikain. Mga kapwa kong magsisipagtapos, iparinig natin ang ating mga tinig. Ipaglaban natin ang kasunduang pangkapayapaan tungo sa katarungan, tungo sa kaunlaran!

Wika nga ni Bb. Norombai Utto, nagtapos na valedictorian sa Hji. Salik National High School sa Mamasapano, Maguindanao, gawin nating pundasyon ang kaalaman at karunungan para sa kapayapaan ng ating bayan. Tulungan nating bigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga tulad niya para sa maginhawa at maliwanag na kinabukasan. Dahil karapatan nang bawat isa sa atin ang mamuhay nang malaya at mapayapa ano man ang ating paniniwala. Noong isang taon, isa ako sa inatasan sa induction ng Phi Kappa Phi na sindihan ang kandila na sumisimbolo sa pagkakaisa. Ngayon at sa hinaharap, sama-sama nating sindihan ang ilaw tungo sa pagkakaisa at kapayapaan hindi lamang para sa iilan kundi para sa buong sambayanan.

Maraming salamat po sa tiwalang ibinigay niyo sa akin na makapagsalita ngayong hapon at sa inyong pakikinig. Nawa’y isabuhay natin ang kabutihan at kapayapaan! Mabuhay tayong lahat!

Further reading:

* Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro including links to annexes, 2012

House Bill No. 5811, substitute bill of House Bill No. 4994 (draft Bangsamoro Basic Law) in the House of Representatives

* GMA News (Marrian Ching), “Valedictorian from Mamasapano tearfully pleads: Invest in education, not war“, 30 March 2015

From ano ang sikreto para maging summa cum laude?

Answering this on my blog instead, para pwede ko siyang baguhin sa paglipas ng panahon. Question from here.

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. Joke lang, okay lang namang malaman siya ng iba e.

First of all, you have to settle some very important questions. Gusto mo bang makuha ang summa cum laude? Willing ka bang magsakripisyo at magsikap para makuha yun? But, more importantly, you need to know for whom or for what you’re doing it for. Parang Nescafe yan e, “Para kanino ka ba bumabangon?” Wala kasing drive o gana para matamo ang isang goal kung di mo naman alam kung bakit o para kanino mo siya inaalay. Para lang ba sa iyong sarili, o sa pamilya, para sa mga kaibigan, o sa bayan?

Once you commit yourself and once you know who or what you’re doing it for, the next step involves exercising discipline. Hindi pwedeng pabandying-bandying (yan ba spelling nun?) lang at i-ka-cram ang assignment kapag malapit na ang deadline. Lalo na kung kailangan ng research and analysis. Sa Public Ad (na kursong natapos ko), kailangan laging kumuha ng impormasyon mula sa pamahalaan at iba’t ibang organisasyon para sa reports at end-of-sem papers. Kaya simula pa lang ng sem, dapat makapag-submit ka na ng request letter sa resource person. Dapat makapag-interview o makuha mo na yung papers sa gitna ng sem para makapag-analyze o makapag-adjust sa topic kung di nila pwedeng ibigay yung kailangan mo.

Hindi rin magandang nag-ka-cram. Turo nga sa psychology, “forgetting is greatest after learning.” Kung kaya mong gawin, regular pag-aralan at intindihin ang notes. Don’t just memorize, rather understand. Mas malinaw kung makakapag-connect the dots ka, applying theory to practice. Pinakamaganda mag-aral sa umaga, pero dapat kumain muna ng agahan. As for study tips, I highly recommend Ms. Gabi Timbancaya’s answer.

Third, adjust accordingly. Kung mukha mang hindi mo makukuha ang pagiging summa, huwag mag-alala at sumuko. Ilang beses na itong nangyayari sa akin, kaya nirerebisa ko ang aking expectations. Meron ngang isang sem na sinabi kong magiging magna (at hindi summa) ako. Be realistic. If the people to whom you dedicate your all expect too much from you, talk to them and let them understand what you’re going through.

Kung may balak ka ring sumali at magsikap sa mga organisasyon at aktibidad sa labas ng acads, o kaya magkaroon ng love life, kailangan mo ring mag-adjust. Let them know and understand what you’re aiming for. They will understand. Know your limits and recognize your potentials. (At least my organization did. Will never know from my “forever” though. Wala e. Haha. Ang corny pala.)

However, don’t compromise honor in the pursuit of excellence. Work hard for your grades, don’t beg for them. Don’t cheat your way. And don’t treat grades or being a summa as an end in itself, but only as a means to some greater end.

Fourth, relax a little. Nakakaburnout kung di ka magbibigay ng space para mag-enjoy. Kumanta at iparinig sa buong madla, magbasa ng nobela o story sa Wattpad, manood ng drama o kaya cartoons, maki-update sa mga nangyayari sa social media, mag-exercise. But don’t unwind too much. Remember that you’re aiming for something. Kaya ayoko ring sundan ang Game of Thrones e. Baka once I start, I would not be able to stop. Haha.

Lastly, don’t let being a summa cum laude define who you are. Rather, be a good person, child, relative, colleague, friend, citizen, and leader in the best way that you can.

Para sa anon na nagtanong, thank you for asking. 🙂

Paano mag-apply ng university clearance at transcript sa UP Diliman kung bagong graduate ka

Kung binabasa mo ito, congrats at natapos mo ang apat (o mahigit) na taong pagsisikap, pagpupuyat, pagkabigo, at sa huli pagtatagumpay! Pero bago sumuong sa mundo ng mga samu’t saring pagsusulit, trabaho, at muling pag-aaral, kailangan muna nating makuha ang ating transcript, at para makuha iyon, kailangan nating makakuha ng university clearance. Pupunan ko lang ang mga gap o puwang ng proseso ayon sa CRS.

Ano ang dapat dalhin:

1) Clearance application form mula sa CRS

2) P30 para sa clearance fee/Diploma Authentication o ang official receipt nito kung nabayaran na (Kung nagdududa kayo na pareho sila, ikumpara lang ang account number na nasa gawing kaliwa ng resibo [9774711] sa nakalagay sa clearance form).

3) P300 para sa graduation fee o ang official receipt nito kung nabayaran na

4) P600 para sa tatlong kopya ng Transcript of Records (Pero ganun din ang siningil sa kaibigan kong dalawang kopya lang ang kinuha, kaya hindi ko alam kung paano i-bre-breakdown ang bayaring ito).

5) Optional: Certificate of Graduation, P30 bawat kopya

4) Pasensya

5) Optional: Tubig at snacks, pamasahe sa Toki

Paano mag-apply ng clearance at transcript:

* Kung may accountability, hindi pwedeng mag-apply. Ayusin muna sila.

1) Mag-apply sa clearance module sa CRS (

2) I-print ang form, i-fill up yung year graduated at degree sa baba ng Last enrollment in UP (kung hindi pa nakalagay), at pirmahan.

Sample clearance application form

Sample clearance application form

3) Dalhin ang form sa clearance section, 1st floor, OUR at ibigay sa person-in-charge. Ipiprint niya sa likod ng “I promise to check my clearance application at CRS” (non-verbatim). Kailangan pirmahan yun. Kung nabayaran na ang clearance at graduation fee, ipakita sa kanya ang official receipt at isulat ang O.R. Number, amount, at date, sa clearance application form.

4) Pumunta sa 2nd floor ng OUR, Transcript section, at kumuha doon ng application form para sa Transcript at Certificate of Graduation. Pagtiyagaan ang mahabang pila at ipa-assess kung magkano ang babayaran.

5) Pumunta sa Cash Office gamit ang Toki, sasakyan, o paa para bayaran ang mga dapat bayaran.

6) Bumalik sa Clearance section, 1st floor, OUR para ipakita ang resibo ng clearance at graduation fee (kung di pa nabayaran bago ang step 3) at para print-an sa likod (kung di pa na-print-an sa step 3).

7) Umakyat ulit sa Transcript section, 2nd floor, at i-file ang application sa TOR kasama ang resibo. Magtiyaga ulit sa pila habang naghihintay.

8) Bumaba ulit sa clearance section at ipasa ang clearance application form.

I-check lagi ang status ng clearance application sa CRS module (

University Clearance module sa CRS

Cleared status. Tawag na lang sa (632) 981-8500 loc. 4561, 4562 o (632) 927-3422 (Transcript section) para malaman kung nai-forward na yung clearance certificate niyo sa Transcript section.

Samanatala, makukuha pagkatapos ng 15 working days ang transcript at ibang request. Kung ibang tao ang mag-cla-claim ng transcript, maghanda ng authorization letter, ID mo, at ID ng representative. Ganun din ang gawin kung ibang taon ang mag-a-apply ng transcript.

Congrats muli at good luck!

UPDATE (10 Hunyo 2016): 

Oo nga pala, hangga’t hindi pa nagaganap ang pagtatapos o graduation, hindi pa pwede mag-apply para sa transcript.

Halos isang buwan din ang lumipas mula nang mag-apply ako hanggang sa makuha ko ang aking transcript.

IMG_0098 - Copy.JPG

Claim stub. Paki-tignan ang mga nakapaloob sa mga rectangle.