Speech by Guest of Honour, Ms Low Yen Ling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education, at the Nanyang Business School Convocation 2017 at Nanyang Technological University

Published Date: 28 July 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Ms Lien Siao-Sze, Member of NTU Board of Trustees,

Graduands, parents, family members of the graduands,

Ladies and gentlemen.


1. A very good morning to everyone. It is really awesome to be back at my alma mater, NTU. And I am very honoured and happy to be able to come back today to share this joyous occasion with you. As you have heard from Prof Neo’s introduction, I was a graduate of the Nanyang Business School, from the Bachelor of Business degree programme. On behalf of MOE, MTI and South-West district, I would like to extend my heartiest congratulations to all the graduands. Well done! And of course, there is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. And this is why it is so appropriate for us to see your family members attending this important event and milestone in your life. My heartiest congratulations to all the parents, grandparents, family members and friends! You have played a very important role in supporting the graduands in the pursuit of their degrees. Congratulations to all!

2. I graduated from NTU NBS 21 years ago. Quite a number of things have changed since my days in NTU. Today, I am very happy and very proud to see that NTU has state-of-the-art facilities like The Hive and The Wave. Students like you, now have the opportunity to graduate from double degree courses like the Double Degree in Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science or Engineering. To me, such programmes provide more options for you to pursue one’s interest, and more opportunities for exposure to multidisciplinary approaches. I understand that amongst our graduands, about 30 of you are graduating from double degree programmes today. Well done! Congratulations.

3. Now, even as the doors of education have widened over the last two decades, what has remained very constant is NTU’s sterling commitment to its students. It remains unchanged and in fact, stronger than ever. The university management and faculty are very dedicated in their quest to equip NTU students with all the necessary skills sets and knowledge to navigate the demanding, dynamic and fast-changing world.

4. Now, graduands, once you step out of the Nanyang Auditorium later, you are officially graduates of NTU and you will enter a new phase of your life. It will be a very exciting time and as your senior, as an alumni, allow me to share my thoughts with you today, as you embark on this wonderful journey ahead.

Stay True to Yourselves (T)

5. And the first point I want to say is, do remember to stay true to yourself. As you embark on this fresh chapter, I hope you will always stay true to yourself – your dreams, remember what they are to you. Your aspirations and also your ambitions. And even as the going gets tough, and it will get tough from time to time, keep those values, ideals and hopes alive. Don’t give up. Find that can-do spirit in you to overcome that adversity. It is quite easy to accept status quo or become very resigned to mediocrity. But if you persist in holding on to your principles, your values, your ideals and hope, and what you had set out to do, you will realise that you will multiply the chances of success to reach your goals. I know that you are born into the digital era, and you are inundated with a lot of information. There are many activities that are competing for your time. But it is important to find time to reflect, and during reflection, it is important to remind yourself of what matters to you.

6. Now, allow me to just quote one example, and we had all read about him from yesterday’s news reports. Mr. Tony Tay is the founder of Willing Hearts, and he has won the Philippines’ Magsaysay Awards, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Tony started Willing Hearts, which is Singapore’s largest food kitchen, 14 years ago. He began his work in a very small way. We all dream big, start small, with baby steps to try to make progress. He took excess food from a bakery and distributed it to Canossa Convent. So, imagine, actually back then, he already started the sharing economy - food sharing. Then he proceeded to give out vegetables that were donated by wholesalers. His efforts to feed the needy, the vulnerable and the hungry grew and snowballed, because that positive energy attracted more people to join him in his good work. Since then, he has not looked back. Today, Willing Hearts cooks and distributes meals to 5,000 needy people in more than 40 locations all over the island, 365 days a year. I think there are many such stories in different sectors, and I am really very heartened to come back to my alma mater today, especially to see the graduands of NBS. Allow me to take just one minute to share with you what it means to me to stay true to myself.

7. And I remind myself that, a few times a year, when I could find time to reflect. I came from a low-income family, and when I think about what staying true to myself means, I always think of three values – Integrity, Passion and Perseverance. Now, why is it that these three values are close to my heart? It has a lot to do with my formative years. I came from a low-income family, and it was only when I was ten years old, that my parents, elder brother and I could all stay together under one roof, in our very first HDB flat.

8. Now, why is that so? Because, my parents had always been doing garment manufacturing business, such as made-to-measure shirts. My dad, being a very sociable person, went into business ventures with a lot of his friends, forty over years ago. However, because he couldn’t quite oversee each venture personally, he ran into debts of about $100,000, which was a lot of money forty over years ago. But my dad said that it was important to be a man of integrity. So, he committed to work hard, seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, to re-pay the $100,000 debt cent by cent, dollar by dollar. He then said that, in order to pay off the debt, that being the first priority, we shall shelf our plans to buy our first HDB flat. When I was ten, every single cent was paid off, and he committed to buying our first HDB flat in Tampines. Through his actions, my dad showed me how to be a person of integrity. Through his actions over that ten years, he showed me the spirit of perseverance. I think it is good to figure out which values matter to you, remember them and hold them close to your heart. Stay true to yourself.

9. And passion is another important attribute that I hold very dearly. Prof Neo and many of the Professors asked me how I juggle three offices in MOE, MTI and Southwest District. I think of it as a privilege to be able to serve in three different capacities. And the way I see it is, I don’t see it as work per say, because once you have the passion for what you do, and that strong sense of purpose, passion is just like fuel for any vehicle. It will really allow you to go that extra mile. So, graduands, I hope you also try to figure out what values you hold dearly to you. Is it integrity? Passion? Perseverance? And remember, do not waver, as you press on.

Keep Grounded (G)

10. Now, the second thing I want to say is, do remember to stay grounded while you reach for the stars. And I know you are well-placed to do so. It is also important to stay grounded. And I hope you remember that as your climb up the corporate ladder will bring you success, maybe through baby steps, and also status, please remember that it is humility that will keep you from falling. I love this quote that I read a long time ago and I will share this with you. Albert Einstein once said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.”

11. Why is humility important? An attitude of humility keeps us very open-minded, open to new ideas and opportunities, and learning all the time. And I hope that you remember that even as you step out of Nanyang Auditorium later as a graduate of NTU, learning does not stop upon graduation. In the face of a constantly fast changing world, we all have to be nimble, adaptable and ready to pick up new skills knowledge anytime, anywhere. I encourage you all to develop yourself even after you enter the work force. And this is why I spoke about passion. Once you find out what your strengths, talents, interests are, what areas you are most passionate about, the areas that speak to and resonate with you, you will jump out of bed every day to go to work. And you don’t just see it as a job, but it is almost like a quasi-hobby that also happens to pay you. It is only when you are passionate about what you do, that you have the quest to continue to learn and deepen your skillsets. So, number one, stay true to yourself. Number two, continue to be grounded.

Inspire Others (I)

12. So what is number three? Inspire others. You do not need to be of a certain age, e.g. middle-age, before you can inspire others. No matter what your age is, so long as you have the intent to do good, you can be in a position to inspire. As we seek to embrace a culture of lifelong learning, I really hope you will also inspire others on your life journey. Allow me to give you an example. One of Singapore’s oldest persons, Teresa Hsu was a social worker who gave to society, gave selflessly and generously, and continued her humanitarian work even after she turned 100 years old. She had no formal education as a child, but passed her Senior Cambridge exams at the age of 30 and learnt to be a stenographer at 35. She later became a social worker and passed away at 113 years old. Miss Teresa Hsu was well remembered for her work to improve the lives of the poor and needy.

13. Now, I give you another example. He is about your age, or a few years older than you. Another Singaporean who has contributed to the community and inspires with his positive learning attitude, with his can-do spirit, is our homegrown singer, Nathan Hartono. Why do I share his example? He was not afraid to persevere and go back to his books to improve his Chinese language and Mandarin when he was contesting in China. Today, Nathan is not only attracting Chinese fans, he is also our ambassador for the Committee to Promote Chinese Language Learning's (CPCLL) “爱上华文” campaign. In his role as an ambassador in the last six months, Nathan has visited several schools to share his personal experience and also inspire young Singaporeans to master the Chinese language and to hone their mandarin proficiency.

14. I hope that amongst today‘s graduands, there will be many who will rise up like how Tony Tay did, Teresa Hsu did or even Nathan Hartono did. You can certainly reach out for the sky and make a positive difference, no matter how small that difference is, to Singapore, the region, and also the world.

Treasure Family, Friends and Fraternity (F)

15. So, my last point is, treasure family, friends and fraternity. As you venture out into the working world, keep your family, friends and NTU fraternity close to your heart always. My days in NTU really bring back very fond memories. And I am quite sure that, whether you spend three years or four years in NTU, through shared experience, your friends - whether from the same faculty, hall or school, will be your friends for life. Your present achievement is really a sum of all the love, sacrifices and the support you have received from your family, friends and also fraternity in NTU. On this note, may I invite all graduands to please give a round of applause to your family, lecturers, tutors, mentors and everyone else, who in one way or another, played a role in enabling you to be where you are today?

16. So I have mentioned four points today. Stay true to yourself, if I can call that “T”. Number two, be grounded, “G”. Third point, inspire others, “I”. And the last one, treasure your family, your friends and your fraternity, “F”. Together, they form “TGIF”. So I wish you a wonderful Friday, wonderful weekend, and on this note, I am really proud of you as a NTU NBS alumni.


17. I wish you all the best in your new chapter and may you come back to NTU to pass on that spark of blessing to someone who may need it. Congratulations and I wish you success, fulfilment in all your endeavors ahead! Thank you very much!

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