Convocation address


The Honorable Rafael Hernández Colón

at tbe Ponce Campus of Inter American

University of Puerto Rico

You are graduating during a time of great historic change. The old is ebbing away, and the currents of a new era are surging in on history's tide.

During the first 450 years after its discovery Puerto Rico had an agricultural economy which powerfully defined Puerto Rican character and society, framed our standard of living and delimited the possibilities of material progress attainable on this island.

During this era, more or less in the middle of the nineteenth century, the industrial revolution began in Europe, spread rapidly to the United States, and produced fundamental changes in the systems of production, distribution, and consumpation of goods. This brought about both great progress, and problems of environmental decay and dehumanization of the human condition. These changes were accompanied by the development of a néw kind of political organization, the nation state.

In the middle of this century, as Puerto Rico moved toward an industrial economy, the most advanced economies were undergoing another evolution. A new historic era has begun in this decade. For lack of a better name we shall tentatively call it the post-industrial age or the age of information, in which we see a change in the systems of production, organization of labor and patterns of consumption. Digital information and communication technologies have made possible the integration of data and information in one unified system of communication. The structure of companies, of managerial responsibilities, and of relationships with workers results in more flexible working methods and access to broader markets. We have at our disposal new information services, access to databases, and audiovisual, cultural and leisure activities. The power and possibilities of the individual have increased relative to the powers of government and large corporations. The limitations of the nation state in trying to solve both national and international problems have become evident.

This is the era in which we find ourselves. Its exceptional speed of change offers manifold opportunities and great dangers, among these the destruction of the ozone layer, global warming, damage to the environment and natural resources, desertification, exhaustion of nonrenewable energy sources and the marginalization into poverty of two thirds of the world's population. It's an era in which we can devastate our planet with ever growing injustices toward a large part of humanity, or in which we can build a new society more worthy of our human potential.

Puerto Ricans at this crossroads of post industrial society run as much risk as the rest of the world, but also have much to gain. If, in spite of our political divisions, we can fashion the common purpose needed to make the most of the opportunities we encounter - and that's a big if - our full entry into this information, or post industrial age, will change the very premises from which we address the long standing problems caused by our material and geographic limitations.

In the information age, in the post industrial age, the logic which drives the economy has changed in our favor.

The chief economic resources of the post industrial era are not capital, nor mineral resources, nor manual labor, as they were during the industrial age. The chief economic resource is knowledge: the capacity of the human mind to use information productively. The way in which value is added, in which wealth is created,executives, professionals, and workers will stand out insofar as they acquire knowledge and use it effectively to produce goods and services. This will be a liberating phenomenon. He who has knowledge will be his ówn master, and can move from one company to another, from a company to self employment, or from part time to full time employment with a freedom impossible under the employment structures of the industrial age.

The government of Puerto Rico uses more than a third of its resources in conveying knowledge: in preschool, elementary, high school, vocational and higher education. These efforts are augmented by a great web of private educational institutions at all levels. Meanwhile, the corporate world directs a large part of its resources toward job training. Education is without a doubt the principal occupation of the country.

But how productive is this knowledge which is being transmitted with so much effort? Knowledge is economically productive when there is a positive difference between the way things were done before it was applied, and the way they are done after. Whether it's a task done by an individual, a machine, a company, or a country, applying knowledge that has a significant economic impact is something to be planned, organized, and carried out imaginatively. Many factors must work in concert for a knowledge-based economy to be strong.

What is critical for us is how much effort the public and private sector direct toward making knowledge productive. In an economy where the production, transmission, and effective use of knowledge is more powerful than the mere exchange of goods, access to and use of knowledge, both theoretical and practical, should be the focus of public and private institutions. We must move in that direction.

Puerto Rico is in the process of creating a high speed communications web. This infrastructure, necessary for developing multimedia services, uses the most advanced data transmission technologies (such as fiber optics), and takes full advantage of the ability to digitize information and transfer it at high speed (e.g., high definition interactivity, multitasking). Apart from the utter necessity of such an infrastructure in a post industrial economy, this allows development of such areas as telecommuting and netuorking in information, medicine, and administration. We must keep in mind, however, that communications monopolies handicap an economy insofar as they maintain elevated prices and offer few incentives for innovation. Competition in telecommunications is the strategy for progress, for development on the information superhighway.

Today the Puerto Rican economy is entering the post industrial age. Leading industries which depend on high levels of knouledge are well established in our country: pharmaceuticals, electronics, and to a lesser but still important degree, biotechnology. We have excellent managers, technicians, and workers of great creativity who continually increase productivity and contribute to innovation in industry. They are the managers, technicians, and workers of the post industrial age which for some years has been manifest in certain parts of our economy, such as the industrial or financial sector. They have great potential to lead both the transformation of multinational companies operating in Puerto Rico into responsive manufacturing concerns which can stay on top of world markets, and the expansion of Puerto Rican entrepreneurial efforts.

The time for this expansion has never been better. In this post industrial era, speed in using knowledge to create and market new goods and services brings a decisive competitive advantage. This is why governments and companies which are riding the crest of this historic wave are those which are decentralizing, and which use information and communication technologies to make rapid decisions. The more the world economy grows, the more competitive the smallest, neulyindustrialized countries can become. All large corporations aré reorganizing and shrinking in size in order to compete. The deconstruction of the great corporations and their regrouping into netuorks of smaller companies offers us particular opportunities.

Today anyone can find information on electronic webs such as the Internet, or from specialized industrial or commercial networks. We don't have to search just on the island. We only need to put the information together, and combine our imaginations and analytical abilities with those of people in other networks or companies.

Thus it is possible to create small and medium sized companies for production and consumption, social aid, cultural and leisure activities which create a significant number of jobs, all within a wider context of partnerships, agreements, networks, joint ventures-all cooperative, integrated efforts to bring a neu dimension to our enterprises.

Our island, which already has the advantage of being able to develop within two cultures, will achieve a global outlook, as distance disappears in a world of computers interlinked through worldwide telecommunications networlks.

Today, products can be produced anywhere, using resources from any place, of any desired quality, to be sold anywhere. Put another way, if Puerto Ricans decide to do it, in the information age we can compete with anyone.

You live in an extraordinary time. The premises which limited the horizons and thinking of Puerto Ricans and circumscribed our sphere of political and economic activity are changing, and will have changed completely as we enter the next millennium. In the post industrial era, Puerto Rico can achieve a genuine interdependence within the world economy. To do that we must forge a common purpose and take organizational steps within our government and civil society.

We cannot delay. On us depends whether we ride the train of the future, or remain mere onlookers at the station. What is certain is that the future before us is more promising than it has ever been... full of possibilities.

And that is exactly why I want to finish these remarks by speaking of the bedrock of this future— none other than you, yourselves, who represent the new direction of the country. Whether that future which lies within our grasp, fulfills our longings or deepens our disappointments depends on each of you. No one will hand it to you, not the state, nor society, nor a political party. You will do it yourselves. The sum total of what each of vou achieves will determine whether or not Puerto Rico fulfills its many possibilities in the post industrial age. I call you to take up this challenge.

I do not call you to a professional commitment in the traditional sense. I call you to a personal commitment. I call you to define your aspirations and your hopes, to exercise your abilities within the dictates of your conscience. If conscience and ethics do not master our politics, economics, lifestyle, even our science and art (if we work in those fields), we will be unahle to govern ourselves, no matter how good we are professionally We will be unfit to carry out the changes in work and production which the post industrial age requires: joint tasks, cooperation, the effort and vision of groups united by shared values which impart a sense of mission. The individual, egotistical interests, which characterized the industrial age created great social injustices. Selfish societies, selfish commercial interests, selfish nations are devastating the world, using up its resources, poisoning the environment and dragging humanity down to the level of basic instincts to keep up the interminable race for consumption.

The great task before each of you is not that of finding employment, it's the clarifying in your own conscience the values which will guide your lives. Your great task, as it is for all people today who are graduating from the universities of the world, is not to let yourselves be dragged along by the values of the passing industrial, consumer age (such as success or possessions at all costs). Rather, the great motivations of your lives must be the motivations of conscience: ethics, serenity, the quality of your relationships with others, with nature and with life.
The great opportunity which this new era affords you is a greater opportunity to develop your being, not your having. In life, having comes in addition to being, but being never comes in addition to having. Living for the sake of having will ultimately annihilate your being. Those who helieve that they are because they have merely blind themselves to their moral bankruptcy, their constant anxiety, and their degraded human condition. Those who believe they are valuable in themselves, because of their dignity as human beings, because of the immeasurable possibilities of their heing, because of the incorruptibility of their consciences, because of what they can create or what they can contribute to others, they are fully human and the abundant humanity of a man or woman is nothing less than the Glory of God.

I call you to this abundance.

Rafael Hernández Colón, Esq.

Rafael Hernández Colón was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on the 24th of October, 1936, son of Doña Dorinda Colón Clavell and Don Rafael Hernández Matos. He is married to Doña Lila Mayoral with whom he has four children: Rafael, losé Alfredo, Dora Mercedes and Juan Eugenio.

He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree, with Honors, from John Hopkins University and obtained his Doctor of Laws, magna cum laude, from the University of Puerto Rico, Rlo Piedras.

He began his public service at the age of 24, when he was named Associate Commissioner of Public Service of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In 1965 he was appointed Justice Secretary by Governor Roberto Sánchez Vilella. In 1968 he was elected Senator and became President of the Senate in 1969.

At the age of 36 he was elected Governor of Puerto Rico and was selected by Time Magazine as one of the World's 150 most distinguished leaders. In 1984, and again in 1988, he was re-elected Governor of Puerto Rico.

In the field of education, he has been a professor at Granada University Spain, the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico and the University Puerto Rico. He is a Trustee of Johns Hopkins University.

Among his publications he is known for the Manual de Derecho Procesal; La Nueva Tesis, Estrategia para el Desarrollo Integral de Puerto Rico; and Retos y Luchas, Principales discursos en su contexto histórico.

He has received innumerable awards, including: Gran Cruz de la Orden Duarte, Sánchez y Mella given by the goverment of the Dominican Republic; Gran Cruz de Isabel La Católica conferred personally by King Juan (Carlos I Spain; Gran Cordón de la Orden del Liberador de Venezuela; Medalla de Oro from the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science z Culture; the Orden Olímpica of the International Olympic Committee, and the Medalla de Oro from the Alcalá de Henares University in Spain. On behalf the people of Puerto Rico, he received the Principe de Asturias Awaroi in 1991.

He is the only Puerto Rican member of the prestigious Club de Rorna, which dedicated to the study of science, culture and world economy and serves the President of the Puerto Rican Chapter. Inter American University Puerto Rico is an institutional member and hosts the Puerto Rican Chapter.