by Janine Chow:
Former President Fidel V. Ramos of the Philippines arrives at Yale with an immediate, striking, and real purpose.
He has a reputation as a peacemaker. During his presidency, he was acclaimed for negotiating peace with Muslim and Communist separatists and implementing increased stability in the Philippines.
I ask him about his role as a peacemaker – what it means to him. “I have been a soldier for forty-two years,” he returns slowly, emphatically. “It is a soldier who wants peace most of all.”
His papers (styled “propaganda”) are telling. He shows me the official newsletter of the Ramos Peace and Development Foundation, Inc, aptly named The Visionary and subtitled “Towards a Good Life for Democratic Societies.” His articles speak to international peace and cooperation: “Post-911 Resolution: Never Again!!!” and “Win the Future: FVR Keynotes in China-Asean Cooperation Forum.”
Former President Fidel V. Ramos now dedicates his life to this vision of peaceful cooperation and development among Pacific Countries. The Visionary includes a map of his speaking tour, taking him from China to Taiwan to Japan to Malaysia to—yes—New Haven, Connecticut. In countries all around the Pacific Ocean, he propounds a message of cooperative globalization and communication that will lead to the betterment of human life.
His ultimate aim is peace and development—a “Pax Asia-Pacifica,” he calls it, jabbing a finger at a corresponding article in The Visionary.
Of course, then, the question: what stands in the way of peace? The obvious answer is disparity, injustice, inequality. Ramos expands this last into a striking metaphor. “What is one plus one?” he asks. Two. “Two, yes. But what if one plus one equals zero? Or negative five?” This inequality, he says, deprives human beings of what he designates as the most essential needs: “food, potable water, and education.”
We must work towards a world where one plus one equals two.
To this end, Ramos’ plan for the Pax Asia-Pacifica is one of “caring, sharing, and daring.” Through concerted effort, he hopes to close the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the educated and the ignorant.
He speaks to the idea of raising your neighbor. He takes my hand at this, and raises it into the air. “Thou shalt help thy neighbor,” he says solemnly.
“But,” he adds, laughing, “not thy neighbor’s wife.”
On stage, Ramos is hardly any different from the man with whom I shared a conversation in Ibiza restaurant. In LC 102, he gives the speech entitled “Asia’s Rise and America’s Role in the Emerging Power Balance.” In it, he shares the same message of international cooperation towards peace and development that he writes in The Visionary.
Before the assembly, Ramos presents as very human as understandable. He is very direct and candid in his speech—establishing a sort of conversational relationship with the audience. “That’s the way people should interact,” he says. “They should exchange, dialogue, talk about peace.”
He directs us in the audience to shake hands with the people to our right, left, back, front. Now embrace them. And kiss them.
For indeed, “How are we going to have peace in the world amongst warring factions unless we embrace and kiss each other?”
The foundation for peace lies in human connections. “What a great future that would be, dear friends.” Yes, it would.