Mr Low Wong Fook, Principal, Singapore Polytechnic
Distinguished guests,
Parents and graduands,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good Afternoon.

I am pleased to be a part of your graduation ceremony where I am addressing the graduates of Singapore Maritime Academy as well as graduates from the School of Chemical and Life Sciences. You are here today after 3 years of hard work and I am sure many sleepless nights preparing for your exams. Today, the fruit of all that labour is ready for harvest. Today, when you receive your scrolls, you will not be alone in your jubilation - your parents, your families, your friends and your teachers all rejoice with you!

Graduation is always a time to look forward and ponder about the future. I am sure this has certainly crossed your minds. In thinking about the future, you would have thought about success. All of us would like our talent and dedication to be recognized, encouraged and rewarded. Yet, is talent and hardwork a sufficient formula for success?

This afternoon, I would like to propose 3 ingredients related to SUCCESS - I would like to share 3 ingredients and 3 stories. The first of these is PURPOSE. Our life purpose reflects what we naturally DO best in life - the gifts, talents and skills our personality has to offer the world. It reflects how we aspire to BE in life - the qualities of our authentic self. Essentially, your purpose will inspire you toward how you could make a difference in the world, however minute. Purpose gives life its meaning. Many great men succeeded not because they did what they did but WHY they did it.

Richard Buckminster Fuller (July 12, 1895 - July 1, 1983) was an American visionary, designer, architect, poet, author, and inventor.

A story is told that his life was once like most people's, full of going to parties, football etc. He was a bit of a "wild teen" in his younger days. Then something happened which changed his life forever. His daughter Alexandra was 6 years old and was very sick with polio and spinal meningitis. Before leaving the house one day, he promised Alexandra he would bring back for her one of the small flags that they have at the football stadium. It was her birthday and he promised to be back soon.

Buckminster Fuller didn't return home after the football. He didn't return home for three days. Presumably he was partying. When he finally arrived home, his wife told him to not waste time apologising to her, but to go upstairs and see his daughter immediately. Alexandra had taken a turn for the worse. Fuller picked his daughter up in his arms and said hello to her. Then she asked him if he had the flag. The disappointment was enough to end her slender hold on life. She died in his arms.

In 1927 at the age of 32, bankrupt and jobless, living in inferior housing, he felt so responsible, and this drove him to drink and to the verge of suicide. However, instead of ending his life, he began to search for his purpose in life. He decided to embark on "an experiment, to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity." Buckminster Fuller went on to invent what he is most well known for - the geodesic dome, the only large dome that can be set directly on the ground as a complete structure. Fuller was awarded 28 US patents and many honorary doctorates. He received the Gold Medal award from the American Institute of Architects and numerous other awards.

I hope that you will not have to go through such a traumatic event in order to find your life's purpose. However, now would be a good opportunity for you to take some time to reflect on what your purpose might be.

A purpose that would set the stage for the second ingredient associated with success - the PERSISTENCE of doing things you don't like to do. You and I and all human beings have things that we don't naturally like to do. Many times we are guided by our natural preferences and prejudices, we follow our natural likes and dislikes, which may become an obstacle toward success.

Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for his dream to create the "Happiest Place on Earth". Today, due to his persistence, millions of people have shared 'the joy of Disney'. Colonel Sanders spent two years driving across the United States looking for restaurants to buy his chicken recipe. He was turned down 1,009 times before he found an interested buyer! How successful is Kentucky Fried Chicken today? Sylvester Stallone had been turned down a thousand times by agents and was down to his last $600 before he found a company that would produce Rocky. The rest is history!

These people persisted in doing something I'm sure they didn't enjoy - asking for finance, looking for someone who would believe in a product or an idea they had. It is certainly not easy to face being turned down and it would have been much easier for them to have found alternative jobs that did not seem so out of reach.

Successful people do things they don't like to do, although it may seem that they like to do them. They do things they dislike to do because by doing them, they can accomplish the things they want to accomplish. And they are able to do so because they have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they do not want to do.

When you begin your career, you will find there may be things in your job you do not like to do. Do them anyway. If you are an Engineer who is a very hands-on person, you may not like to write reports. Write them anyway. You may be asked to do things that seem to have nothing to do with your job. Do them anyway. Because you would not know when it will work to your advantage.

And finally, the third ingredient - ATTITUDE. Attitude or our perspective in life is a choice all of us can make. We have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change the past, we cannot change the behaviour of others, we cannot change the inevitable but we CAN change our perspective. To a very large extent, our attitude determines how we will live life.

A man found an eagle's egg and put it in the nest in a chicken coop. Soon the eagle hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life, the eagle did what the other chicken did. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet in the air. Years passed and the eagle grew older. One day, he saw a magnificent bird above him in the sky. It glided in graceful among powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. The eagle looked up in awe. "Who's that?" he asked. "That's the eagle, the king of birds," said his neighbour "he belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth - we're chickens."  So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that's what he thought he was.

Inborn talent alone is not enough to achieve success if our attitude limits who we are. So as you plan your route for your career, I hope you will keep in mind your purpose, persistence and attitude.

I imagine that you would already have begun to think about the industry you will be joining and wondering what it has in store for you. You would have looked around and probably asked about the various prospects open to you. The encouraging news for maritime graduates is that the maritime industry is thriving. The surge in oil prices means increased activities in oil and gas exploration and production. This, of course, translates to demand for new oil rigs and tankers.

The Maritime Industry
You may already know that 2005 and 2006 were record years of growth for the marine industry, which reported a "40% year-on-year growth" in revenue in the offshore and marine sector. This market situation, which is very robust, is expected to continue at least for the next few years. In addition, there is currently a spurt in economic growth in Asia which is largely caused by the progress of the economies of China and India. This has maintained the rise in sea trade.

Diverse Maritime Industry
I understand that on average, today's professionals will change careers at least seven times during their working lives. As a graduate, it is advantageous to you that Singapore is a global, cosmopolitan city with a vibrant maritime industry. There are approximately 4,400 maritime companies (or over 120,000 jobs) in the industry, including port and logistic services, ship repair and ship conversions, and shipping and ancillary services. The maritime industry offers such diversity that it is possible to change careers numerous times and still remain in the same industry!  For instance, you may begin your career as a marine engineer, ocean engineer or deck officer, then continue to a job ashore and later on go on to top management and leadership positions in the marine industry. Whether your interest lies in commercial shipping, high-speed passenger transportation, naval ships, submersibles, pleasure yachts, cruise ships, aircraft carriers, or oil rigs, a career in the marine industry offers a challenging work environment and unlimited rewards.

Globalisation - Maritime Industry includes the Rest of the World
What's more, with the onset of globalisation, we are fast becoming a borderless world. Production in the maritime industry, which is the delivery of goods and passengers, takes place without regard to national borders. So the maritime industry is no longer confined but now includes the rest of the world!

Your Quality Matters - You are Your Industry's Workforce
Do not forget to keep yourself relevant to the changes in your industry. One of the competitive advantages any industry has is the quality of its people. You make up your industry's pool of dedicated and trained workforce, which will ultimately influence its future.

The Petro-Chemical Industries
Today in our midst, are also graduates of the Diploma in Chemical Engineering and Diploma in Optometry. I understand that prospects for you are also looking good. Both the chemical and petroleum industries are experiencing strong growth (by as much as 10% or exceeding S$74 billion in the chemical industry). This robustness, like the marine industry growth, is expected to continue in the coming years.

Opportunities for optometry graduates will also expand when new legislations would classify you as full-fledged healthcare professionals. With this increased scope of practice, also comes enormous responsibilities to your fellow Singaporeans. However, I am confident that Singapore Polytechnic has equipped you to be competent in your skills as an eye-care practitioner. I understand that SP is looking into expanding the education platform for our optometry graduates who will be able to continue directly to a degree programme via the Foreign Specialised Institution route.

You may sit here today thinking that other than being from SP, SMA and CLS graduates have nothing in common. Interestingly, nautical studies and marine engineering students need to have their eye-sight verified (no extreme myopia and no colour appreciation deficiencies) in order to pursue a sea-going career. As optometry students, you may already have come across some of them during your practicum. Another sector of the marine industry that is showing strong growth is energy transportation. This includes energy transportation of processed as well as marine fuel oils, liquefied petroleum gas and liquefied natural gas. So one set of graduates will be concerned with the processing of the product and the other with its safe transport. I encourage you to start networking with one another immediately after the ceremony.

You, graduands, are the hope for the future of Singapore. You are about to embark on a career of your choice in your respective industries. You are the talent and skill the industry needs to propel it to greater heights. In the course of your pursuits, some of you may become entrepreneurs, some will be partners in business while others will progressively take up senior positions in companies that you work in. In whatever positions that you take up, do not forget to support the polytechnics, especially the Singapore Polytechnic, by taking in students for industrial training attachments. If you are in the Shipping industry and are able to take in cadets for shipboard training, please help the SMA and the industry to train more marine engineers and deck officers. These are some of the industry involvements which are urgently needed.

Another area where you can contribute to the Singapore Polytechnic, is by volunteering to be guest speakers in your areas of expertise, serve as members of advisory committees when called upon to do so or better still, take up lecturing or other positions in the Singapore Polytechnic.

As you prepare for success in the working world, remember the words of Thomas Edison, the famous inventor, who tried almost 10,000 times before he succeeded in creating the electric light. He said "Many of life's Failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up". Indeed, if he had given up, we would likely be holding this ceremony in dim candle light!

With that I extend my sincere congratulations to all of you and wish you great success in all that you do.

Thank You.

Last updated/checked on 24 May, 2007