SPEECH BY MR TAN HANG CHEONG
PRINCIPAL OF SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

AT THE SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC CONVENTION CENTRE
MONDAY, 23 MAY 2011 (Session 1)



Ms Sim Ann
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the
Ministry of Education and Ministry of Law;

Your Excellencies;

Chairman and Members of the Singapore Polytechnic Board of Governors,

Distinguished Guests;

Parents;

Graduands;

Ladies and Gentlemen

  1. G
    ood morning. It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to Singapore Polytechnic’s 51st Graduation Ceremony. This is the first of 13 sessions for Graduation 2011.

  1. We are very delighted to have Ms Sim to grace this opening session as our Guest-of-Honour. We congratulate you on your new appointment and are honoured that you have made this ceremony your first public event on taking office. Thank you for taking time to join us and celebrate this very special occasion with our graduands.

  2. Three years ago, I welcomed you, the Class of 2011, to SP during your Freshmen Orientation as a group of teenagers fresh out of school. Today, I stand with pride before you as I send you off from SP, as a cohort of confident young men and women, to a new phase of life ready “to serve with skill.”

To Serve with Skill

  1. Singapore Polytechnic was founded on the motto berkhidmat dengan keahilan, meaning “to serve with skill.” It captures vividly SP’s mission to develop talents in the service of Singapore and to make the world a better place.

  2. Towards this end, our commitment to nurture you to be Life-ready, Work-ready, and World-ready remains at the heart of all we do. Today’s celebration marks the passage of close to 6,100 students who will traverse from our classrooms, studios, and labs into the real world. We trust we have equipped you sufficiently with a good set of future-ready knowledge and skills for this world, whether you choose to start a new career or pursue further education.

  3. In the three years with SP, you have acquired a knack to learn unceasingly by continually honing your instincts, stretching your versatility of thought and sharpening your mastery of skills and knowledge. Beyond the sphere of work, we have also equipped you with the capacity to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives, and imbued you with a healthy sense of perspective and optimism to think global and make a difference in ways big and small.

  4. Today, as you are ready to step into the future, I would like us to take a step back to revisit and reflect on some of your defining moments over the past three years - moments that have left you with a deep impression and mould you to what you are today.

Making a Difference

  1. In SP, and you probably heard it many times, we encourage you to go M.A.D. We want you to make a difference. Your first made a difference to the community by participating in the Flag Day during the first week of joining SP. If you remember, you collected a record $170,000 for the President’s Challenge. You set the benchmark for your juniors, and this year, they better your record by raising over $214,000 for charity.

  2. When the local broadcaster posed the challenge to make dreams come true for people with disability, a group of lecturers and students from the School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering rose to the occasion. The SP Dream Potter team set out to help Edwin Chew, a young man with a severe case of muscular dystrophy, overcome his disability. The team literally dreamt up a solution to enable Edwin to access the internet from his bed. Today, Edwin, who has limited finger movement can now control and access the web on his bed. He can also control the tilting or lifting of the bed. The SP Dream Potter team has not only helped Edwin but also his mother improve their quality of life. Edwin’s mother can now attend to other family chores and has a little more time for herself.

  3. Is this just another learning activity? Perhaps, but I think for the team the service to Edwin and his family goes beyond getting a grade for the project. It has given them a great sense of fulfilment and satisfaction – they learn what compassion is, and they know that their combined talents have been harnessed to make a difference in the life of a young man.

  4. But the act of giving is not a one-way street. For many of you, participating in community service projects has also been eye-opening, and sometimes heart-wrenching. Business School student Pauline, who served at a senior citizen’s activity centre in Ghim Moh, shared that “The elderly has taught me so much about growing old graciously and to continue to learn, and laugh at yourself.” Another student Siti Nabilah Binte Mohd Addooh who performed her community service in Bintan, shared that “When the orphans sang about how they miss their parents, it really made me cry. I started to think about my own parents, I realise how lucky I am and just how much I forget to tell them I really love them.”

Tackling Problems in the World

  1. Recent disasters in Japan, the political upheavals in the Arab states and economic uncertainties in Europe have shown us that the world before us is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Living in comfortable Singapore sometimes blinds us to these problems.

  2. In this respect, we strive to provide you with as many opportunities as possible to experience a different culture, learn from the best and to change your perspective of the world. Last year, we sent two students for a 10-week internship at Harvard Medical School’s Children Hospital to open their eyes to the world of research and how the best minds are finding solutions to the world’s problems. One of them Daniel Poh who joined us from ITE, described it as his defining moment. He never thought he “could smell the air in Harvard,” let alone spent 10 weeks in Boston. Since then, several other SP students have followed Daniel’s pathway to intern at other Ivy Leagues schools such as Yale, Stanford University, and Imperial College.

  3. Several of you debated and interacted with the brightest young people from all around the world in the Model United Nations Conference held in Harvard and Princeton. They gained insights into the workings of the United Nations and the dynamics of international relations and understood better the world issues from the young people’s perspective. For Wesley Neoh-Khoo, “participating in this conference makes me realise the world is so big yet so small. But we all have an equally important role to make a difference, no matter what.”


  4. For DMIT student Vicki Lau, her five-month stint at a Hollywood production house in the United States under the auspices of the NUS-MDA programme, transformed her from a self-confessed introvert to become a feisty and outspoken young lady ready to take on the world in the field of digital arts. She shared, “Learning from the Hollywood guys is like taking science lessons from Einstein. You learn from the best.”

  5. By creating such opportunities, we want to imbue in you a sense of curiosity and purpose to serve; that together we can play an important role in contributing to the public good using whatever talents and skills we have. Some of you will serve as you discover and others discover as they serve – like Dr Tan Eng Lee, a former SP student turned SP lecturer, who invented the world’s fastest Hand-Foot-and-Mouth Disease diagnostic kit.

Overcoming Affliction with Passionate Fighting Spirit

  1. As I look back and observe how you have matured over the last three years, I wonder what you will take with you as you leave your alma mater.

  2. Among the Class of 2011, a group of you have shown what the power of imagination and superb execution can do. They conceived and executed an enthralling and I would also say, a horrifying, Halloween Horrors 2010 experience for the Singapore Night Safari – a uniquely Singapore version of the close encounters of the spooky kind. During that period, the daily traffic to the attraction was bumper-to-bumper and the queues to enter were long. The Night Safari hailed this as its best Halloween show ever.

  3. This spirit of tenacity to excel goes beyond the classroom. Among our graduating cohort, we have many team captains and players from nine national championship teams in a variety of sports and CCA. They have brought glories for Singapore and SP. I thank you for your fighting spirit. For Team Gusto, SP’s own Cheerleading Team - strong leadership, camaraderie, and unstinting support from family members and the polytechnic, enabled the team to twist, tumble and soar from 7th position in 2009, to 3rd in 2010, to emerge as the National Cheerleading Champion in 2011.

  4. We learn from Team Gusto that there is no shortcut to success. Overcoming the odds is about determination, discipline and a sense of purpose. For Natasha Putri Asok Kumar, she certainly felt that way when she was diagnosed with lupus and lost her sense of direction in life. Thankfully, she found her passion in Architecture and with the help of her lecturers and friends, reset her compass. Through sheer tenacity and a fighting spirit driven by passion, Natasha persevered to achieve a GPA of 3.79. Yet, she has simple words to share of her learning journey, “Life is more than getting As and making it to the top. Experiencing life in meaningful ways is more satisfying than beating your opponents.”

  5. What I have shared with you are snippets from your collective experience. They are your defining moments and I am sure you have all experienced it in different circumstances and guises. These stories help us to relive those precious moments of joy, elation, triumph, anguish, pain, and, sometimes, even sorrow.

  6. But these stories are also our pride. They serve to remind my colleagues and I about our shared purpose, our reason why we chose to be in SP - to provide the best possible learning experience that will prepare you to be future-ready. What would give us the greatest sense of satisfaction is that whichever path you take you will always give your best and commit to serve your community and the nation and make this world a better place for all to live.

  7. Before I end, I would like to show you an animation clip “Flying Colours,” a graduation project by DMIT student Ng Cheong Ghim. He describes the screening of his graduation project as his defining moment. He said, “the two-minute video represents my three years of hard work. It made me appreciate animation more than ever.”

    May I present to you “Flying Colours.”

  8. SP can show you the horizon and provide the opportunities, but only you can open the window to a world of possibilities. Cheong Ghim showed us in his video that the path ahead will be filled with many trials, but each time we stumble, we must not give up but pick ourselves up and carry on the journey.

  9. Finally dear graduates, wherever you may be, remember we are SP, and remember “to serve with skill.”

  10. We are proud of you. Thank you.