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Principal's Message

My heartiest congratulations to the Class of 2014! I hope your journey in Singapore Polytechnic (SP) has been one that is filled with many memorable moments that will linger fondly in your minds for a long time.[ Read More ]

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Speech by Mr Nicholas Fang


Mr. Tan Choon Shian, Principal & Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Polytechnic,

Deputy Principals and Directors,

Distinguished guests, Parents,

And to the graduating cohorts of the School of Communication, Arts & Social Sciences, and the School Electrical and Electronics Engineering, a very good afternoon to you all.

  1. My name is Nicholas, and I do a number of different things in my life, which I'll come to a bit later on. But a main focus for me now is my work as associate editor at Channel NewsAsia, where I oversee Singapore news for the channel.

  2. I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to speak with you all today. It's not easy to give these speeches. When I think back to my various graduations when I was a student, it's hard for me to even remember who the speaker was, much less what he or she said!

  3. So I relish the chances I have to try and say something, based on my own experiences in life, that hopefully you will remember a little bit of some day in the future, when perhaps you are invited to make a similar speech.

  4. Professor Tommy Koh, who is one of our ambassadors, and a great lawyer, negotiator and diplomat for Singapore, is very fond of using the rule of three, that is - to make three points in every speech or talk he gives. He says this is the amount of information we as humans can most easily remember and retain. He also says it's his wife's way of making sure he doesn't talk too much.

  5. I'm a big fan of Prof Koh, so I shall learn from him and shape my thoughts today around three points, the three As.

  6. The first A is for Awareness. I think it's important for us to develop a keen awareness about the world we are facing today, the world you will soon take on, as you move into the workforce, or contemplate other options.

  7. Singapore is going through an interesting period of development. The speed of growth from our early years was phenomenal. But it is slowing down, as the rest of the region catches up.

  8. Global trends are changing, with new phenomenon in media, trade, industrial development and financial flows constantly emerging.

  9. At the same time, Singaporeans are changing too; we're becoming better educated, we are born into a society very different from our forefathers, and we have aspirations and expectations that are different too.

  10. These changes have been reflected in how we as a people have reacted to various issues, such as the population White Paper last year, the Little India riot in December, and is reflected in much of the discussions we hear in real life and online.

  11. Many of us, especially young people, seem dissatisfied with the status quo, with the way things are being run in Singapore, with the authorities. We see a few high-profile cases of vandalism recently, with the targets being the government or the ruling party.

  12. These things are a little alien to those of us used to an orderly Singapore. But I think they are a genuine reflection of some sentiments which have evolved over the years.

  13. If we were to liken our population to a person, it's almost as if we are going through "adolescence" in a way, as we ask questions about who we are, what we stand for, chafe against authority figures, and in general angst about everything.

  14. I think such growing pains are understandable and part of a maturing process. The key thing to remember that, as we grow and mature, our actions will still have implications, and that many people, both within and outside Singapore, are watching how we grow up.

  15. Our region is facing a turbulent period, with tensions rising in areas such as the South and East China Seas, growing threats of transboundary pollution like the haze, and potential geopolitical instability in countries like Thailand, which just experienced a military coup.

  16. At the same time, our position as a leading hub in the region, a top financial, economic and logistics and trade centre, is not something to take for granted. There are always competitors looking to steal our lunch.

  17. So it's important to be aware of what's going on, in Singapore, in our immediate neighbouring region, and in a broader global context. This will allow us to make the right decisions for ourselves, our families and our country.

  18. This takes me to the next A: action. Awareness and understanding are important, but they are useless without action.

  19. As young people, and leaders of the future, you have a vested interest in taking action to ensure that the future is the best for future generations of Singaporeans.

  20. It worries me to hear about the difference in emphasis among the current young generation, compared to those who have come before.

  21. Many employers tell me nowadays that young individuals looking for jobs state very loudly and very early on in interviews that work-life balance is crucial for them, almost a deal-breaker if they don't get it.

  22. There was an interesting commentary written in the newspapers last week about why the young people in Singapore feel this sense of self-entitlement, despite not having actually entered the workforce or been employed for any number of years.

  23. The desire for balance in life is not in itself a bad thing, but I think the author was trying to understand why young people seemed to put this as a priority above all else, especially when they were just starting out in their careers, a time when ones work typically should be the top priority.

  24. But I'm sure all of you here are looking forward to entering the workforce at some point, perhaps quite soon in the future, and excelling at your career.

  25. But we live in times where our action is sometimes needed beyond the scope of our own jobs, careers, and lives.

  26. Even as our society progresses, there are those among us who struggle to get by, including some elderly individuals, and disadvantaged youngsters facing a difficult childhood.

  27. Most of us here are privileged to have had the opportunity and access to a good education, which opens many doors for us in life.

  28. As we continue to seek to succeed, and aim higher and higher, it's also important for us to look around, and perhaps behind us, to see if anyone needs help, and how we can offer that help.

  29. This could involve our contributions in external various organizations and institutions, volunteer activity, and charity work. The key thing is that our action is not only focused on ourselves all the time, but also occasionally on others in our society.

  30. It's important for us to remember that, even as we hold certain expectations for what the authorities or our leaders should do for us, at some point, we too are responsible for crafting the kind of country and society we want to have for ourselves and future generations.

  31. And this brings me to the final A: appreciate.

  32. We Singaporeans are famous for leading busy lives. I personally have a problem saying no to people to come to me with suggestions of things to do, and sometimes find myself juggling five different jobs.

  33. And this fast-pace of life often means we don't often stop to appreciate the things around us. I know I'm certainly guilty of it.

  34. We are also famous for complaining. The common joke is that if complaining was an competitive event, we would have many more Olympic champions by now.

  35. I personally find that complaining does very little in the long run in any practical sense, other than helping us vent our frustrations.

  36. And if we take a step back, I think many of us will agree that our lives here aren't that bad after all.

  37. We enjoy relative peace and stability, compared to some of our neighbours in South-east Asia; we are facing comparatively good economic growth and development if we look at other developed regions in the world.

  38. Perhaps the one area that we seem to be lagging a bit behind, is in terms of the softer side of things, likes arts, culture and sports. But these are things which we as citizens have a direct role in, in terms of supporting and developing such aspects of our society.

  39. So instead of complaining, I think we would all be a lot happier if we could slow down and take a minute to look around us and appreciate all the things we have benefitted from and still enjoy today.

  40. These are just a few ideas which have come to me over the years, and which have helped me in my own journey.

  41. I hope they are of some use to you in the next phase of your own journey, which begins when you leave the doors of this school.

  42. I wish you all the best, and hope you have a fruitful and meaningful life ahead.

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