OF TREES AND FOREST
By FORMER SENATE PRESIDENT MANNY VILLAR
August is “History Month” by virtue of a presidential proclamation that turned “History Week”, usually celebrated September 15-12, to a month-long commemoration. It should really be a year-long observance, after all, history is important in the life of a nation. But the month-long celebration in August does emphasize the need to understand the past in order to plot our future.
History is a hit or miss thing in our country. If you had a very good and engaging history teacher while in school, you probably developed a keen interest in understanding our history. However, if you had a boring history teacher who simply presented history as a collection of cold, impersonal facts that happened in the past, then you probably find any discussion of history boring, or a ‘nosebleed’.
Your interest in history, in particular, our own history as a nation, should not be dependent on whether you had a good or bad mentor. It is our civic duty to understand and utilize history as we participate in nation-building.
Understanding how people and societies behaved in the past, how our nation was born out of the struggle and heroism of brave Filipinos, and, how our current problems are rooted in what happened in the past, make history dynamic and not static. It is a mistake to think that what happened in the past will not be useful to us now or in the future.
History is also very important in business. Great business leaders have an excellent grasp of history. History allows a business leader to understand certain conditions that might affect the success of his enterprise. For instance, one of the qualities of a great business leader is being sensitive to the changes happening in society. This allows him to keep his business relevant and to make adjustments towards the survival of his business.
Understanding the changes happening now requires an understanding of the events that have caused seismic changes in the past. Understanding history helps the business leader acquire a historical frame of mind allowing him to observe these transformations. Some of these changes, by the way, are subtle and often imperceptible. This knowledge can develop the abilityof a business leader to anticipate what might be coming over the horizon or around the corner.
When I came back to business after a 21 year stint in public service, one of the things I needed to do was understand the present environment in which our enterprises operate in. But to do that, I needed to understand the development of businesses in the Philippines and the world. Specifically, I had to study the evolution of the real estate industry amidst the changing global economy and shifting habits and behaviors of people.
History also provides the business leader the tools to analyze and evaluate what works and what does not work. Knowing the evolution of the global economy, the forces that shaped it, and the development of business strategies, and why they work, are essential elements in the toolkit of a great business leader.
But history should be of interest, not just to those in entrepreneurship, but to the general public as well. Understanding by heart the development of our nation creates a sense of identity, a marker of unity, that allows us to develop and strengthen our love of country. How can you love something you know nothing about? A good citizen knows the history of his/her country.
Learning history is good business—it lifts our soul, improves our mind, and enriches our future.