The Richest Man in the World…..
01/11/2006. “I feel like the richest man in the world,” said Jefferson Perez, three-time world race walking champion, at the conclusion of the ceremony in which he received a Doctorate, Honoris Causa in Liberal Arts. The degree was awarded by the Universidad de Especialidades Espiritu Santo (UEES). That night in the square of the educational institution, located on the highway to Samborondon, the native of Cuenca became the first Ecuadorian sportsman to receive an honor of this type.
The following is Jefferson’s speech on the occasion of this award.
Day by day I see competition in different areas, where the most prepared academically (according to the criterion of some) can become famous personalities, moreover, receive awards from different public and private institutions, and I stop to reflect on where the greatness of knowledge really lies. Degrees, preparation or academic formation must be the necessary instruments for using the resources that mother earth provides us with in a more respectful way, so that the inhabitants of our country and our planet receive benefits without damaging the ecosystem.
I have read of those great thinkers, intellectuals and world leaders, who even after having achieved great success, have spoken about the need to find harmony with the elements of the planet (water, air, fire, land). Is this wisdom? Was it their degrees, ability or leadership that permitted them to acquire that wisdom? At this moment thousands of questions come to mind, and I remember each instant of my life, especially those early years when I lived a simple life without so many rules and standards of behavior. Nevertheless, I acquired respect, honor and integrity in the streets of my birthplace, values that I have put into practice since I was a child, thanks to the necessity of surviving the reverses of fortune that life brought me.
When asked how I recovered those values and principles that have permitted me to be a success, I confess that they are a part of me, a part of that person who learned from both the streets and university classrooms – in short, from life itself. Knowledge divorced from popular wisdom or academic formation, without investigating reality or becoming acquainted with it, is of little value. To quote the words of a great sportsman, “It’s not enough to have knowledge, one must know how to apply it.” It is then that degrees will have true value – the day we can apply our knowledge adequately to solve social, economic and political conflicts in the society in which we live.
Every time I hear persons speak of the greatness of human beings when they achieve “success” that is associated with money, fame or power, I tell them that “success” must be synonymous with creating, constructing or promoting those projects or ideas that increasingly allow the greatest numbers of persons to have opportunities to educate themselves, to have access to decent health – in short, to overcome those limitations that have made society unequal.
Can greatness perhaps originate from the surname one inherits or from economic, political or social position? I believe that greatness results from the impetus of our intentions and even more from our actions, while attempting to attain the most that humans can, without mattering so much where I am from, but more importantly where I want to go and what means I have to get there.
Every Ecuadorian man and woman must assume the responsibility and the challenge to achieve individual greatness, be it spiritual or emotional, for the benefit of humanity. For each negative event that occurs in our country, we must have the obligation, and above all, the capacity to find solutions. Only in this way will we know that we have the understanding to overcome negative events and construct a positive society of which we can feel proud.
The challenge to rethink and to organize our house, Ecuador, begins with the obligation of all citizens to recognize our diversity and to recognize that this is what constitutes our wealth. Let us overcome the barriers imposed by individualism and defensiveness in the great majority of the population, and in this way achieve excellence through a physical, mental and spiritual equilibrium, respecting nature as a great reserve for future generations.
Our nation must be powered by the work of everybody and for everybody, in a world that is very competitive, where day by day we seek those mechanisms that allow us to find the elements that aid the better prepared, without excluding the less favored, and achieve the equality and harmony that we desire.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.