Empowering WMSU Graduates: A Message of Resilience and Adaptability from Atty. James Lee Cundangan

On May 17, 2024, the 79th Commencement Exercises (2nd Batch) of Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) took place at the Dr. Juanito A. Bruno Gymnasium in Zamboanga City. The ceremony, themed “Empowering WMSU Graduates for Global Citizenship: Crafting Legacies of Excellence,” was marked by a powerful and inspiring speech from the commencement speaker, Assistant Solicitor General Atty. James Lee Cundangan. His address resonated deeply with the graduates, offering a heartfelt guide to navigating the challenges of life with resilience and adaptability.

Cundangan’s speech was a poignant blend of personal anecdotes and practical advice. He began by acknowledging the mixed emotions that accompany graduation—a potent combination of excitement, relief, and inevitable uncertainty. “Graduation is a new chapter,” he noted. “You will end one chapter of your life, and you will begin another one. And there are a lot of doubts,” said he.

Drawing from his own life, Cundangan shared the struggles and doubts he faced as he contemplated his future. He recounted having four options for his life and the confusion that clouded his path. Despite the achievement of earning a degree, he emphasized that uncertainty is a universal experience for graduates. “Even though you have graduated with a master’s degree or not, there’s still a lot of doubt that you face in this new chapter of your life journey. But they have the same common goal: to have a better life,” he reflected.

Cundangan’s journey was fraught with challenges. He spoke candidly about moments of wanting to give up, dealing with demanding professors, and confronting his mother’s insistence on attending law school. Yet, through these trials, his mother’s unwavering support became his anchor. Her encouragement was pivotal in helping him stay the course and achieve his goals.

To encapsulate his message of resilience, Cundangan introduced the graduates to an acronym: CALM. Each letter represents a principle he believes is crucial for navigating life’s adversities and achieving success:

C – Champion of Peace: Cundangan explained that being a champion of peace doesn’t mean the absence of conflict but maintaining calm amidst the storm. He urged the graduates to remain composed and resilient when faced with challenges.

A – Aggressive in Pursuing Dreams: He encouraged the graduates to be proactive and relentless in chasing their aspirations. Citing the “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) doctrine, he reminded them of the brevity of life and the importance of seizing opportunities.

L – Leadership through Service: Promoting the concept of servant leadership, Cundangan highlighted that true leaders serve their people. He urged the graduates to inspire others through their actions and to lead with empathy and integrity.

M – Model Excellence: He emphasized the significance of being role models in their communities and future families. By striving to be the best versions of themselves, they can inspire pride and respect in those who look up to them.

Cundangan’s speech was more than just a commencement address; it was a heartfelt guide forged from his personal journey, meant to inspire and equip the graduates as they embark on their new paths. By embracing the lessons embedded in his story and the principles of CALM, the graduates can look forward to their futures with confidence and resilience. As the graduates left the gymnasium that day, they carried with them not only their diplomas but also the enduring message of the assistant solicitor general: to face life’s challenges with calm, pursue their dreams aggressively, lead through service, and model excellence in all that they do. This commencement exercise was not just a conclusion but a powerful beginning, crafting legacies of excellence for years to come. (LMP, PAO)