The Idols of My Life
Frederick N. Tiu (XS'79), School Treasurer
Good morning, fellow Xaverians. It is indeed a privilege to be given this opportunity to address you on this occasion of the Annual Reading of Honors. This morning, I thought of talking to you about the idols of my life. Of course, you know what “idol” means. An “idol” is someone you admire and would like to emulate. Sometimes, we refer to them as our “role models”.
For a kid growing up in the sixties, I read a lot of comic books and watched a lot of black and white television. Given that, my first idol was Batman. Of course, Batman was really Bruce Wayne, a mild-mannered millionaire. Batman fought against evil and stood on the side of justice. At that moment in my life, Batman was the coolest. I remember the times I would pretend to be Batman while wearing my ever-reliable utility belt which I created from cardboard and pentel pen.
Towards my intermediate years in Xavier, I dreamed of becoming a basketball player. I started playing the game and was actually good at it. My idol then was John Havlicek of the famed Boston Celtics. When Havlicek retired I turned to the next Boston superstar, Larry Bird. Both these guys were excellent clutch shooters and played smart basketball. I recall many afternoons pretending there were only a few seconds left on the clock and my team was down a point. I had the ball and winning or losing hinged on my final shot attempt.
In high school, I changed my idol again. I fell in love with those moptops from Liverpool who had a unique sound and sang their own compositions. The Guiness Book of World Records recognized the Beatles as the most successful recording artist of all time. Aside from being talented musicians and songwriters, they were extremely charming and witty. Not only did I know the words to most of their songs, I grew my hair long, learned to play the guitar and the chords to their popular hits. I spent countless hours listening to the radio waiting for their songs to be broadcast. I saved my allowance to be able to purchase their long-playing records which were selling for P20, quite a fortune at that time.
After the Beatles came my more serious-side. I realized that I was neither meant to be a basketball player nor a rock and roll star. So, I turned to an intellectual and a world leader at that. I began to admire John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, and the first Catholic to be elected to that position. Moreover, this Harvard alumnus was famous for the saying “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country”. President Kennedy set out to fulfill his campaign pledge to get America moving again and he succeeded. His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War 2. Unfortunately, Kennedy was shot dead before his term expired.
After college but prior to my return to Xavier School, I spent 18 years working in the field of banking & finance. The biggest American bank when I began my employment career was Citibank, headed then by its youngest-ever Chief Executive Officer, John Reed. This MIT engineering graduate was not your typical banker who rose to the top via the Treasury or Credit career path. Reed was an Operations-man, somebody from the backroom. He forever reshaped the landscape of banking when he introduced the now popular Automated Teller Machines in the early 80’s.
Not surprisingly, my next idol was a guy by the name of Sanford Weill. Sandy put together the world’s largest financial institution when he merged John Reed’s Citibank with his Travelers Group to form Citigroup in the mid-90’s. Weill is now Chairman Emeritus of Citigroup which has a capital exceeding $120 billion. He is one of the richest men in America with a net worth of over $1.5 billion. He is happily married and lives the good life while, at the same time, donating generously to Carnegie Hall as well as his alma-mater, Cornell University in New York.
After hearing about my idols, you might ask, “So what in the world are you doing working here in Xavier School?” Well, it’s actually quite simple. I have one other idol. But this idol is different from the ones I just spoke about. Whereas all my previous idols do not know who I am, this next idol of mine knows me personally. We address each other on a first name basis. Whereas all my other idols have done nothing for me, this next idol of mine is a dear friend who stood by me during the lowest points of my life. This next idol of mine is not rich. How can He be? He is a plain and simple carpenter! The man is not a famous basketball player or singing idol and holds no position of influence in government or business. Nevertheless, I idolize him because His generosity cannot be matched. Hard as it may, I try my best to follow in His footsteps.
This idol of mine has been around since I was in grade school but I have kept pushing Him aside. On many occasions, I took Him for granted. However, later I came to realize that He is greater than all my other idols combined.
Fellow Xaverians, after all these years, one thing I learned is that the true measure of success and real happiness cannot be found in money or power or popularity. I know many people who are rich, popular and powerful but they are unhappy. They are looking for something deeper and more meaningful. The true measure of success and happiness can only be found in the inner depths of our hearts. And you know what is funny and ironic? True happiness does not come when one receives. True happiness comes when a person gives, shares, serves and loves without counting the cost. This person, the greatest of all my idols, is the supreme example of these qualities I just mentioned. Whatever He had; his time, his talents and his treasure; He used them for other people.
Before I end, allow me to congratulate all the awardees today. Keep up the good work. And to everyone, please exert effort and do your best in school, not only for yourselves but for your parents and for our Lord. Fr. Zuloaga, the Chairman of our Board of Trustees, believes that this Jubilee Year is a year of grace, reflection and renewal. During the Golden Jubilee of Xavier School and the quincentennial of our patron, St. Francis Xavier, I hope we will all find the true meaning of being a Xaverian: A man for others, fully alive in the world! Thank you and Luceat Lux!
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