Back to top

Speech By Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong At SIM University Convocation 2011

Speech By Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, And Community Development, Youth & Sports, And Mayor, Central Singapore District, At The SIM University Convocation 2011, 10.00am On 7 October 2011 At SIM University


Professor Cham Tao Soon, Chancellor, SIM University;
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University;
Graduands from the School of Arts & Social Sciences;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;


  1. A very good morning to all of you
  1. Let me start by thanking the SIM University (UniSIM) for inviting me to this meaningful convocation ceremony. It is indeed an honour for me to be here to witness this important milestone in the lives of all the graduands, and to celebrate with you your success. To all the graduands gathered here today, I would like to offer you my heartiest congratulations on your achievement.

  1. Almost 30 years ago, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts & Social Sciences myself. At that time, I felt that arts and social sciences had an important role to play in our society. Thirty years on, I feel even more so in the diverse, complex and highly interconnected world that we live in today.

  1. Most people would agree that hard sciences and technologies drive tomorrow's world and create new frontiers for social and economic development. But some would argue that it is the arts and social sciences that give our society voices in history, and colours in civilization.

  1. Human history is about stories. Today, I wish to share two heartwarming stories of the SIM University. One of our graduands today is Mdm Koo Yuet Hong. Mdm Koo has been an English teacher for the past 11 years. She joined UniSIM to upgrade and improve herself. A year into her degree course, she discovered that she was pregnant with twins. After the birth of her twins, Mdm Koo juggled the difficult challenge of teaching, studying and taking care of her babies. But she never once thought of giving up, even if it took her five years to complete her degree. I would like to applaud Mdm Koo for her determination, perseverance and discipline. Today, Mdm Koo will be receiving her Bachelor of Arts in English Psychology. And she intends to pursue her Masters degree. Mdm Koo is a shining example of work-life balance between career, continued education and parenthood. I wish her all the best. And I think she deserves a big round of applause for her extraordinary balancing act.

  1. At different stages in our lives, we are presented with different options and opportunities. Another of today’s graduand, Mr Wong See Heng, who works in the engineering industry for more than 30 years, is looking at launching his second career in translation and interpretation (English/Chinese). Mr Wong got his first degree from NUS in 1981, but his deep love and passion for languages made him return to school after nearly 30 years. For those "senior students" out there, you know how difficult it is to return to classroom and be a student again after a long break. Today, Mr Wong will be honored with the Bachelor of Translation and Interpretation. My warmest congratulations to him. I think he also deserves our applause for his courage, determination and passion for learning.

  1. Speaking of Mr Wong's studies in Translation and Interpretation for the Chinese/English languages, I would like to bring you to a tour of China and Europe. I visited Italy's Rome and Milan just last week, and China's Inner Mongolia and Dalian the week before. In both these places, I spoke to young people for the purpose of gauging the energy and vibrancy of these countries in the future. Despite the vast differences in social environments, cultural elements and economic conditions, they all shared the same confidence in the future.

  1. For Italy, the country is now in economic doldrums, there is a debt crisis facing the country as well as the entire Eurozone. But many Italians carry on with their lives as usual. They believed the current Eurozone crisis will be sorted out, just like many crises that had come and gone in their history. And in the meantime, the Italians know that they have superlative innovations and creativity to exploit opportunities, and carry them through the crisis.

  1. Italians have much to offer the world – on four wheels, they produce Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis. For 2 wheels, they have Ducati Augusta and Cargival. Ducati is often described as Ferraris on 2 wheels. For food, Italy's Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, Sassicaia red wines are world renowned. For fashion, Gucci, Versace, Ermenegildo Zegna, Armani, and other unpronounceable names are found in many people’s wardrobes worldwide.

  1. Italians are confident that through their creativity and innovations, they will find new products and brands to sell to the world. This will increase their foreign currency holdings and reduce debts and deficits. Why are Italians not daunted by the economic crisis? Because they know they have that X factor in design and fashion which will give them an edge over others.

  1. The situation is completely different in Inner Mongolia, the birthplace of Genghis Khan. To most people, Inner Mongolia is only famous for its grasslands and horses than anything else.

  1. But during my recent visit to the capital city of Inner Mongolia, Hohhot, I was completely awed by the rapid development in Hohhot. It's a modern city, like the many other cities that I have visited along China's coastal provinces. There are many new and tall buildings in Hohhot. The whole city is like a big construction site, with many building projects going on in every direction.

  1. The traffic in Hohhot is getting congested with many cars adding to the streets. At night, most of the buildings along the thoroughfare are lit up like Christmas trees.

  1. When I asked the Inner Mongolian officials where are the famous grasslands, they told me the grasslands are now a few hundred kilometers away, and it will take half a day to drive from Hohhot to the grasslands.

  1. From the rapidly developing Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, we can see that China is undergoing a phenomenal change. The younger generations of Mongolians I spoke to are full of confidence of their future.

  1. One point worth noting is that many young Mongolians speak fluent English with an American slang. Quite many of them wear western designer brands. They carry Louis Vuitton handbags and not bows and arrows anymore. This is the part of modern Mongolian history that we don’t read about in our textbooks.

  1. China has been sidelined in modern industrialization which was taking place in the West for the last 200 years, but in the short 30 years of open door policy, China has out developed and outperformed any country in the world.

  1. Like their counterparts in Rome and Milan, the young Mongolians believe they have all the attributes to grow with their country going forward. For the young Italians, they believed that their soft power in creativity and innovation will find them new opportunities in adversity. For the young Mongolians, they are hungry for new knowledge, new languages and new understanding of the outside world. They know they have the best opportunity in prosperity and they are ready to write the new chapter of the China story.

  1. For our young Singaporeans, what do all these mean to us? Being a "senior youth" myself, my sense is that there are even more opportunities presented to Singaporeans, as Singapore is a gateway to both the East and the West. In the past two years, I have visited about 30 cities in China. All the government officials, business leaders and men in the street that I met in these cities told me they have very high regards for Singapore and Singaporeans. All their compliments are not only music to our ears, they also make us feel proud of our progress and achievement. But we cannot sit on our laurels for what we have achieved in the last 46 years. Remember the youth in Italy and Inner Mongolia? One is creative and the other is hungry. They are among the many international competitors that young Singaporeans have to face off in some stage due to globalisation and internet connectivity.

  1. As it is, we have some competitive advantages which give us one step ahead. Singaporeans are known to be competent and reliable due to the success of our formal and moral education. We are trusted for our delivery and integrity. Our multiculturalism creates cultural affinity with China, India and Southeast Asian region. This gives us an edge in establishing mutual understanding and partnerships with these countries. Our bilingual ability in English and Chinese is another unfair advantage in establishing effective communication bridges between the East and the West.

  1. To our graduands, I say that your journey begins today with a challenging but exciting pathway. You will face greater challenges than your forebears in view of the more intense international competition. But you are also much better equip with new skills and new knowledge than your predecessors. In another word, you are like a 3G solider who is combat ready in all weathers. With so much invested in you, you can stomp the world and stamp your class.

  1. On this note, I wish all of you the best in your future endeavours. Once again, my heartiest congratulations.

  1. Thank you.

Back to top