I am very fortunate to have been part of breathtaking movements for Change – the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines and the election of the first African American president.
On Saturday night, February 22, 1986 my parents woke me and my brother up. Quickly – get dressed – we’re going to EDSA. I didn’t pause to question whether I was dreaming or not (a few days earlier I had gotten into major trouble for joining one of the many street demonstrations against the Marcos regime). I jumped into my jeans, pajamas and all, put on a t-shirt, grabbed a baseball cap and joined my family. En route to the highway where hundreds of thousands were converging to protest a stolen presidential election, and to demand Tama Na – Enough! to 14 years of dictatorship, I asked my mom what made them decide to take action. She said we’d like you and your kuya (big brother) to have a future. We’d like to hope again. So when Cardinal Sin called upon Filipinos to barricade the rebel camps, we came. A few days later, Ferdinand Marcos was whisked away by American forces and Corazon Aquino became president.
More than two decades after the nonviolent uprising in the Philippines, sadly not much has changed. While democratic institutions have been established and freedom of the press flourishes, gross inequity and rampant corruption prevail. Income inequality is one of the worst in Asia and close to 30% of families live below the poverty threshold. Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index gives the country a score of 2.3 (10 being highly clean and 0 being highly corrupt as assessed by business people and country analysts). Cameroon, Iran and Yemen garnered the same mark.
It is up to all of us. This is not about Barack Obama. This about doing what is right and just and true for all. This is about keeping the American Dream alive.