High 5 : 31 July 2015 by Ms Foo Lee Wee
Good morning Mdm Tan, Mr Lee, Mr Tan, Teachers and all Gessians,
Mrs Carolin Tan, our ex-principal, said these words to me which I found it incredibly powerful. A time to speak is the time to influence.
My topic for this morning’s Hi-5 is on youths also known as adolescents or teenagers. You have preoccupied my mind since I was informed that I had to deliver a Hi 5 speech on 31st of July, which is today.
Youth Day in Singapore, like most countries is celebrated in quite a grand way. In Singapore we traditionally celebrate it on every month of July during its first Sunday.
This year in celebration of SG50, Youth Day was celebrated on 26 July with a Youth Day extravaganza entitled ‘Youth Celebrate!’. This was seen as the mark of SG50 where more than 5000 students from primary, secondary and special level worked hand-in-hand together with tertiary institutions and other youth organisations and centres to perform at the Singapore’s Sports Hub. Apparently over 50,000 people participated in this great event from students, teachers and parents.
I quote our Education Minister Heng Swee Keat who had these words to say, “It is a very befitting gift for the nation to see our youth’s vitality and sense of humility (in performing for others).”
Indeed, our country values youth-ness through this gigantic event that showcases talents, wit and sportsmanship of the many youths in Singapore. This event would be a moment of historical significance and an experience of a lifetime.
Our government has deliberately created a platform for youths of today to do something for their community and country. Is that all that youths could do?
I believe youths of today, like youths of yesterday, are the same in terms of boldness and foresight though their aspirations and dreams may differ.
Our aspirations and dreams differ as really they are contingent upon where we are born, when we are born, and which household we are born into. None of these is within our control.
I quote Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who says “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Each generation has its own unique strengths, opportunities and also weaknesses and threats. We have to face them in good stride. Our responses will determine the outcomes as really all events, good or bad, are neutral. That is the rules of life and we have to abide them with what we are endowed with.
The world that Confucius, Martin Luther King, Deng Xiaoping, and Lee Kuan Yew lived in was in many ways very different from today’s world. They put up a good fight in each of their capacities, and choices made, and left behind a world better than before.
For example, Confucius who was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC, continues to speak to us of what and how it meant to be a true gentleman. In my view, if Deng Xiaoping, born in 1904 and died in 1997, had not taken the boldness to open up China and instituted socialism with Chinese characteristics, 80% of the people in the world today would be jobless, in poverty and faced starvation. Back home in Singapore, I strongly believe without Mr Lee Kuan Yew, born on 16 September 1923 and died on 23 March 2015, there will be no Singapore. Without Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the first-generation of PAP leaders, Singapore would not be what we know today.
In case you are thinking, but these men were not youths. They were quite old when they assumed their roles and responsibilities. These remarkable men in their teens instead of wasting their youth away worked hard to build good habits of discipline and excellence. They did not bow down to adversities and odds but faced them with courage and resilience. They prepared for their mission in life. They were men who were given little but left behind more than what they were given.
Youths of today in Singapore are blessed with so many opportunities and are spoiled for choices. How should youths respond to ensure they continue the good work and uphold the principles of excellence and resilience that our forefathers have built for us? I want to suggest three ways.
First, we should take time to pause and reflect on a day to day basis as true wisdom, true virtue contained in the true understanding of time. Studies show most people only start examining the purpose, meaning and significance of life and living only after a tragedy, hardship or suffering strikes them. Mindful living has to be intentionally cultivated as it is not a natural behaviour. We are living in the process of no return, the way of no return so our living understanding should be serious.
Second, we should take ourselves and our learning seriously. Education is a gift that all youths in Singapore can enjoy. It is to make us a literate person but more importantly an educated person. An educated person is one in the words of Lee Kuan Yew “who never stops learning and wants to learn, and also one who is formed, developed and an effective digit for the community.”
Third, we should take a keen interest in the people and our surroundings by observing and then extending our presence, provision and protection to reach out and help, where appropriate. ViA activities should start first in Singapore by caring and working on social issues and be intimate with these issues. In other words, we know best how to reach out to our own fellow Singaporeans. I feel that when we go overseas especially in Developing Third World countries for ViA activities, we may be more of a burden than help because they need to take care of us and had to embrace our foreignness.
Hence, there must be a reason why we are born into this world. We need to seek the mission of our life. In the course of finding it, we should live our life as best as we can, exercising responsible use of our time, our potential and our free-will.
Are you satisfied with your experience here and now?
I would like to end my Hi-5 by a quotation from JK Rowling. She is the author who wrote the Harry Potter series. She says and I quote “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Foo Lee Wee