Speech by Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit at Hwa Chong Institution High School Auditorium

Published Date: 20 July 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Desmond Ong,
Chairman, Board of Governors, Hwa Chong Institution

Mrs Chia Ban Tin,
Superintendent, West 6 Cluster, Ministry of Education

Dr Hon Chiew Weng,
Principal, Hwa Chong Institution;

Student Delegates and Teacher Chaperons;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

1.Good morning. I am delighted to be here today at the 2015 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit. This annual Summit, one of the highlights in Hwa Chong’s calendar, is now in its ninth year. I am glad to see that it continues to gather so many outstanding youth delegates from over 12 countries across four continents with the objective of exchanging ideas and insights over pertinent issues that affect the world today. It is my hope that a summit like this, with its unique gathering of young leaders from across the world, will continue to spark powerful conversations between global citizens who have a passion to make a positive change in this world.

Passing the torch, blazing the trail

2.The theme for this year’s Summit is “Passing the torch, blazing the trail”. Indeed, history is replete with inspiring stories of generations that have extracted valuable historical lessons and built upon the success of the past to triumph over the challenges of a new era. The enduring qualities of our predecessors have stirred and transformed the world in significant ways, empowering the generations after to create even better lives and a better world. Today, the numerous and rapid scientific and technological innovations have made the world more interconnected, and fostered global understanding and trade. However, we are also beset with challenges of various kinds. We are living in a very interesting, exciting but really challenging world, in many ways, more ways than one, and I hope that you will have the time to identify the issues that the world is now facing and find some ways for your generation to identify solutions for some of the problems. These include environmental degradation, pandemics and conflicts that arise from clashes in ideology, ethnicity and religion, to name just a few. These are acute reminders that the 21st century is becoming much more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous compared to the past; evidently, there are no easy solutions. There is therefore an emphatic need to look to history as a source of collective wisdom for guidance to chart our paths. As we inherit this valuable legacy, how can we be worthy stewards of this wealth of knowledge and experience and blaze the trails ahead? Several factors come to mind.

With meaning and purpose

3.Firstly, we must have a clear sense of purpose and meaning in life. The benefits of leading a purposeful life are extensive and well-documented. This view is further substantiated by Dr Martin Seligman, a leading authority in the field of Positive Psychology. Dr Seligman explains that “when (we) live a life of purpose and meaning, (we) use (our) highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something (we) believe is larger than the self”. In other words, as we pursue our purpose and meaning in life, we can also contribute back to society and improve the lives of others. This is also in line with the values-driven education that is in place in our schools, which equips our students with an inner compass to guide them through the many challenges in life.

4.One good example that embodies purpose and meaning is that of renowned primatologist Jane Goodall whose childhood dream of living among wild animals ignited her passion to dedicate her life to humanitarian work. Despite being an unusual calling for a young lady in the 1930s, Goodall was adamant about saving up for a round-trip passage to Africa where she could deepen her knowledge about wild chimpanzees. Her admirable sense of meaning and purpose drove her to work tirelessly to establish the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 which has laid the foundation to “improve global understanding and treatment of great apes through research, education and advocacy and to contribute to the preservation of these animals and their habitats”. Furthermore, Goodall’s life story has also inspired many others to extend the benefits of conservation to the community and the environment; the Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots programme is an excellent example which challenges youth members to identify the problems plaguing their societies and empowers them to put into action the solutions that they have come up with.

With compassion and charity

5.Another equally important value that we have to uphold is to live life with compassion and charity. Acts of kindness and generosity have the power to make significant differences even to the most under-privileged and set in motion a virtuous cycle that uplifts the generations after. A good example is Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus whose ground-breaking microcredit system helped to extend credit to nearly 7 million of the world’s poor, many of whom were Bangladeshi women who used the money to start small businesses, buy livestock or finance their children’s education. Unlike conventional banking systems that required collaterals that the poor could not offer, Professor Yunus’ initiative was a lifeline that created a legacy of socioeconomic change for the underprivileged. Evidently, these values of compassion and empathy have given them strength and courage to pursue their ideals and to stand up for what they truly believe in.

6.Closer to home, yet another humbling example is Singaporean Dr Tan Lai Yong who spent 14 years serving as a medical aid worker in rural Yunnan, China. In an interview with the Straits Times in 2010, Dr Tan said that he uprooted his family from a comfortable life in Singapore in 1996 to move to mountainous Yunnan, with their 16-month-old daughter, simply because he did not wish to “just be like the next doctor”; he found his calling when a non-profit organization in Yunnan advertised a position for a medical practitioner to train local doctors in rural areas. During his stint in China, Dr Tan trained some 500 doctors in impoverished villages to carry out vaccinations, dress wounds, diagnose common ailments and balance their books. He also treated the orphaned, disabled and leprous. Apart from his regular teaching duties at the local medical college in the city, Dr Tan also visited the villages to offer medical treatment where there was none. Dr Tan’s compassion and readiness to serve greatly inspired the local officials, doctors and nurses to follow suit in offering medical treatment to the villagers on weekends. 7. Indeed, these examples clearly demonstrate that when the minds and hearts of many come together as one, we can create a more caring and inclusive society. From those to whom much is given, much is expected 8. As we pay tribute to these remarkable individuals who have spearheaded and implemented initiatives that have directly benefitted and inspired their communities to continue their legacy, we are reminded that we too have the capability and obligation to effect positive change in the world. Echoing this view is Bill Gates, who, when invited to speak at the Harvard Commencement Ceremony in 2007 said that because the graduates were given ‘talent, privilege and opportunity’, ‘there is almost no limit to what the world has a right to expect from (them)”; meaning that it is the obligation of those who are fortunate to have good education to give back to society. Likewise, as beneficiaries and future leaders of the world, I exhort you to pay close attention to and identify areas of interest where needs have not been met. Do explore possible opportunities and solutions through networking and collaborative efforts, and serve these needy communities with purpose, meaning, compassion and charity. In doing so, we can be considered worthy stewards of the precious legacy of our predecessors.

7.As future leaders, you will be serving your communities in various capacities. Be guided by the values of service and sacrifice that were aptly illustrated by the examples quoted earlier. For those of you who aspire to serve in public office through political or public institutions, observe how countries and organisations of good governance demonstrate integrity and responsibility to the community. I think there are many which are worthy examples but there are many bad examples around us. As future leaders, I think it is important if you want to effect change and positive change to the people we want to serve, we have to really go deep into good governance and spread that message. Identify good role models and learn from them. Indeed, everyone has a duty to give back to society to make it better, to create the opportunities for everyone to fulfil his or her purpose in life, and to raise the sense of dignity of everyone including the disadvantaged.

Conclusion

8.Over the course of the next few days, I hope that you will forge lasting friendships as you interact with and learn from one another. This is just at friendship level, but imagine the power of common good, through collective wisdom among youth, many years from now when you become leaders of the organisations that you belong to. Don’t underestimate the power of your own capabilities to do good but better still, if all of you can come together and practice your mind on how to serve people in your respective communities.

9.Let me commend Hwa Chong Institution for successfully organizing this Summit and I wish everyone here an enriching journey ahead.

10.Thank you.

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