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SPEECH BY MR KEITH CARPENTER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
INSTITUTE OF CHEMICAL AND ENGINEERING SCIENCES
AT THE 52nd GRADUATION CEREMONY
TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2012 (SESSION 4)

Mr Tan Hang Cheong
Principal, Singapore Polytechnic

Distinguished Guests

Graduands, parents, friends and supporters

Staff of Singapore Polytechnic

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good afternoon everyone.  It is a great pleasure and an honour for me to be here today at the 52nd Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony.  I would like to add my personal congratulations and applaud all graduands and award winners from the School of Chemical & Life Sciences on your achievements.  
  2. If you graduands could just cast your mind back three years, to the day you sat in this very convention centre for your freshman orientation, you may wonder just where the time has gone, and yet on the other hand be amazed at just how much has happened and how much you have achieved. I can still remember my own graduations; even though they were an extremely long time ago. This is a very special moment and you should keep it as a treasured memory as you move forward to the next phase of your life.
  3. My own first reaction was a long sigh of relief. Done it. After all the hard work and tough times, you have made it. You are graduating. But along with the sense of relief comes a sense that things are now different. You are older and very much wiser. More confident, more mature and ready to take your own place in the world.
  4. I could say welcome to the real world. You came into this hall as a student and you leave as young adult, perfectly capable of making your own mark on society. You have become responsible for yourself, capable of making your own decisions, making choices and of course facing the consequences each action may bring.  The pride you now feel in what you have achieved will live with you and grow through the many achievements that now lie before you on the road ahead.
  5. Similarly your parents look upon you proudly. I know how they feel. I have watched my own children graduate, and felt an immense sense of pride in what they have achieved. At the same time with a slight tinge of sadness on realising that the little child I raised and nurtured, actually isn’t a little child any more, but has grown into a friend and colleague.
  6. Your parents are rightly proud of you. They recognize that this is your achievement, and not theirs. They have supported, encouraged, maybe cajoled you, and been a source of strength in challenging times, but it is your own effort that in the end has got you here today.
  7. I know that many of you will have surprised yourselves in what you have achieved, having distinguished yourself more that you might have imagined. I know too that some of you may be disappointed, having perhaps not done as well as you believe you could. Whatever the case I congratulate you all. This is a great learning experience for you, and you should look on it that way.  As you go through life, you should never stop learning, from achievements and from mistakes.  When you achieve great things, understand why and how, so you can do it again. If you slip up, analyse why and learn from your mistakes and become all the better for it.
  8. Looking at the range of diplomas and course modules, along with the overseas programmes and service to the community, I am extremely impressed with the learning opportunities that you have been able to experience in the short span of three years.
  9. I know that some of you have experienced learning and living in Beijing, Dalian and Dublin through the programmes with the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, the Dalian Polytechnic University and the Dublin Institute of Technology. I notice too that the students in Dublin didn’t miss the chance to visit the Guinness headquarters. Very wise I must say. It isn’t a coincidence that in any industry visits from chemical engineering and chemical technology departments around the world, it’s always the brewery visits that are the most popular, and often the most memorable.
  10. Overseas experience always adds value and is a great opportunity for learning. For those of you who have not yet been able to work overseas, I would seriously recommend some form of international placement or exposure as a way of broadening your horizons and your thinking. My wife spent 2 years in the USA and later 4 years in Beijing, which I know changed her outlook and her life in many ways. In my own case, although I had never lived abroad for extended period before coming to Singapore, I did have responsibilities and manage projects and teams across Europe and the USA as well as in Scotland and England.
  11. I always found business trips overseas a valuable and character building exercise. Having to manage the different approaches to problem solving and to career development between Switzerland, France, Holland, Germany, North Carolina, Texas and California, was for me always a great learning exercise. Incredibly frustrating at times of course, but never dull and often surprisingly creative and positive. Many, many times I started out with the mission of explaining just how things should be done, and many times I learnt that there are always alternative and maybe better ways of doing things.
  12. Overseas internships for students are much more than simply an academic exchange programme.  They require you to soak up the social, economic, cultural and historical aspects of your host countries. You begin to see the world from your hosts’ perspective, enriching your own worldview in the process.
  13. So now after all of the hard work and of course the fun times, you may be wondering what to do now. Now what happens? Now you have the freedom to choose, but how to decide? I am reminded of the many times A-star scholars have asked me how to choose a particular course or university, or how to choose a PhD supervisor. I act as a mentor for several of them, and my answer is always the same: “What do you have a passion for, and what excites you? What are you really interested in?”
  14. The School brought to my attention, the case of one of your peers, Choo Wei Guang, a Diploma in Food Science and Technology graduand. I am told he won a first prize in the Food Photography competition by producing outstanding and stunning photographs.
  15. But what particularly impressed me about his story is that he said, “I didn’t participate in this competition for the monetary benefits… it is the recognition of my work from the public that gives me the confidence and motivation to pursue my passion for food photography.”  An outstanding example of a brave and committed young man who will go far.
  16. I was told of another notable example of passion from one of you here. Leonard Ong from the Diploma in Chemical Engineering – an accomplished sailor and windsurfer, and the winner of a bronze medal in the 26th Southeast Asian Games.  A remarkable achievement to be able to perform at such a high level and to carry on a successful academic course.
  17. Leonard commented, “The lecturers and my classmates are the key reason for the success of this outing as they give me time off to train and they spend extra time helping me to catch up with the study”, I know here is a young man who appreciates and understands the value of his colleagues and those around him.
  18. I learned that the pioneering batch of students of the Diploma in Nutrition, Health and Wellness are graduating today. These students, I am told gave free health-screening at the LivEnabled Showcase 2011 in collaboration with Centre for Enabled Living.  A similar health check-up was also given to residents of Ulu Pandan during Community Wellness Day. These are outstanding examples of giving back to the community and of gaining valuable experience and broadening your mind through community service. Very well done to you all!
  19. I notice from the school website, that you have been busy with community projects all over the world.  From refurbishing a kindergarten in China, rainwater harvesting and classroom rebuilding in Nepal to the setting up of a mobile clinic and conducting hygiene courses in Cambodia, these are all excellent examples of a commitment to society and to the world and I congratulate you all.
  20. One of the greatest challenges facing mankind today is the issue of climate change. Through successive generations and historical ignorance, we have created a situation where we will be faced with greater extremes in weather patterns. Increased flooding in some places and ironically more prolonged droughts in others.  Whilst the situation is serious, it is not too late and we can all play our part in a more sustainable society. I am glad to see some of you from the Diploma in Chemical Process Technology have been doing your bit to understand our local environment through biodiversity surveys in your neighbourhood park to ascertain the park’s environmental health. A good example of each one of us getting involved and making a difference.
  21. I would like to end by quoting from one of my favourite scientists; the late Jacob Bronowski, a world leading mathematician and biologist.

    “We are all afraid – for our confidence, for the future, for the world. That is the nature of the human imagination. Yet every man, every civilisation, has gone forward because of its engagement with what it has set itself to do. The personal commitment of a man to his skill, the intellectual commitment and the emotional commitment working together as one, has made the ascent of man.”
  22. Once again, I extend my heartiest congratulations on the successful completion of your studies here and I wish each and every one of you success in your career and further studies.
  23. Thank you.