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Speech by Mr James Kaw


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

Distinguished Guests

Parents and Graduands

Staff of Singapore Polytechnic

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  1. Good evening.  It gives me great pleasure to be here today at the 55th Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony.  I applaud all graduands and award winners from the School of Chemical & Life Sciences (CLS) on your achievements.

  2. This must be a proud moment for you and your family.  Today’s ceremony marks the end of a significant phase of your life and heralds the beginning of a new phase.

  3. Any new beginning always bring excitement of the opportunities and fear of the unknown caused by the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the world we live in or what is regularly referred to as the VUCA world.

  4. Last July, the price of oil was $100 and one month later, the price dropped to half.  One would think that with oil prices cheaper, the world economy would be roaring to growth.  Unfortunately, this is yet the case reflecting the complexity of the new, interconnected world we live in.  The global economy is more challenging with events in another region affecting our very own economy here in Singapore.  The Greece debt crisis is weighing down on the growth of Europe, the world and Singapore.

  5. Yet history has shown that great things have been started in the most difficult times of the world.  In 1837, 2 men got together during one of the worst financial crisis in the US and collaborated to create what is now the largest consumers goods company – Procter & Gamble. And for more than 178 years, we have gone through ups and downs as we sought to respond to changing market environment.

  6. 50 years ago, Singapore started its journey as an independent country in very difficult environment and successfully transformed itself from a third world to a first world country and overcoming many challenges and constraints along the way.   The vision of one man, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, brought together the citizenry to create what is now an inspiration to many other countries.   History shows that even in difficult times, the people who have passion, learn and take actions succeed. 

  7. As you prepare to enter a world characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, you are probably wondering what will the future look like for you?  Will find the dream job you are looking for?

  8. The answer to this question lies in each one of you.  Think back to the time you entered.  Reflect on the changes in yourself over the past 3 years.   You will be pleasantly surprised at how you have become stronger and more capable person through the experiences you have gained.  Your education in Singapore Polytechnic serves as a strong foundation in your holistic development of your physical, mental, emotional and intellectual capabilities. 

  9. As you think through your future, I would like to share a simple approach – PLAY @ work.  PLAY connotes fun, creativity, trying new things under new situations, competing to win, being your best and enjoying what you do. 

  10. It is that and more.  PLAY is an acronym for Passion, Lifelong Learning, Action and Yes!  Let me elaborate.

  11. P for PASSION.  Passion is about being all in on what you are doing.  When you are passionate about something, you truly want to excel and do your best.  You develop a Vision for what is possible to reach for.  Passion results in persistence to succeed.  Failure is a fact of life in the VUCA world we live in.  Winners pick themselves up after failure and start learning and moving forward.

  12. L is LIFE LONG LEARNING.  The amount and the fast pace of knowledge creation is mindboggling.  Each day, new discoveries and learning are being uncovered.  Graduation does not mean learning stops.  In fact, self directed learning or learning on your own becomes even more important to succeed.  Keep reading.  Keep listening to Ted Talks.  Look for mentors and coaches.  Stay in touch with your professors.  These are all ways to continue learning.   

  13. A is for ACTION.  Take proactive action.  Action will result in one of two things – progress or learning.  As you may have heard, there are 3 kinds of people in this world – people who make things happen, people who wait for things to happen and people who do nothing.  Which one do you want to be?  I hope you all aspire to be the people who make things happen.  Commit to be action oriented.  Ask yourself what can I do to make a difference.  Take small steps towards your own personal vision.

  14. Y is for YES.  Finally, say yes when challenges come your way.  Our personal filters get in the way.  Yes opens up new possibilities for growth as you seek to try new things.  Yes reflects a can-do attitude.  And Yes is about taking challenges as they come to you.

  15. In summary, as you graduate today – bring PLAY to your life.  Play connotes fun, PLAY connotes fun, trying new things under new situations, competing to win, being your best.  It is that and more.  PLAY is about Passion, Lifelong Learning, Action and Yes! 

  16. In the words of Alan Watts, a British philosopher and author - “This is the real secret of life -- to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

  17. I extend my heartiest congratulations on the successful completion of your studies at Singapore Polytechnic and wish each of you success in your career and further studies.  

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