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Aquino inspired world through 'people power'


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POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

Corazon Aquino, who showed the world from her Philippines that nonviolent “;people power”; can topple despotic rulers, remains the conscience of her country and a role model for the world. She died yesterday in Manila, but democracy will continue in the Philippines and freedom will be achievable everywhere because of her inspiration.

Aquino rose to the presidency of the Philippines in 1986 after her husband, Benigno S. Aquino Jr., the main challenger to autocratic President Ferdinand Marcos, was assassinated. She ran for presidency in his place—listing her occupation as “;housewife”;—and Filipinos took to the street to protest Marcos' rigged victory.

Aquino was the first woman president of the Philippines, bringing dignity and grace to a country previously run by strongmen, and became known as the “;Mother of the Nation.”; She remained in the position for six years, surviving a half dozen coup attempts.

The soft-spoken leader in her signature yellow dress visited Hawaii three times, most recently five years ago when she accepted the East-West Center Foundation's Asia Pacific Community Building Award for restoring democracy to the Philippines. In her acceptance speech, Aquino said, “;It is the 'people power' people who quietly, willingly and without fanfare are providing constant, dependable, nonpartisan service to the community.”;

At the award ceremony, Amy Agbayani, head of the Filipino Community Center and the University of Hawaii's office of diversity, accurately said she “;symbolizes the high hopes and the aspirations that we (Filipinos) have never reached. Any visit by someone like Cory Aquino gives us a connection to the homeland.”;

Aquino was named person of the year 1986 by Time magazine for making the improbable become the possible. It told how nuns kneeled in the path of Marcos' tanks, old women disarmed gun-toting marines with motherly hugs and little girls gave flowers to combat veterans, who broke down in tears.

Four days after the election and at President Ronald Reagan's order, Marcos was flown on an American aircraft to exile in Honolulu, where he died in 1989. Aquino was sworn in as president and declared, “;Our long national nightmare is over.”;

The astonishing scenario inspired similar episodes of “;people power”; to bring down the Berlin Wall, achieve democracy to Czechoslovakia, Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states and—as we look on—challenge the rigged election and hopefully bring freedom and a responsible system of government to Iran.