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Speech By Mr Sim Gim Guan At The SIM University Convocation 2016

Speech By Mr Sim Gim Guan, Chief Executive Officer, National Council Of Social Service, At The SIM University Convocation 2016 On 12 October 2016, 2.30pm, The Grand Hall of SIM University

Professor Aline Wong, Chancellor, SIM University;
Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, SIM University;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.


  1. Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to join all of you today at the SIM University Convocation Ceremony.
  1. Class of 2016 from the School of Human Development and Social Services and the School of Arts and Social Sciences, my heartiest congratulations. I'm delighted to see so many of you here today. I understand that many of you have had to juggle work and even family commitments through your course of study, and have had to overcome numerous odds to reach where you are today. For this, I applaud you.

  2. Science and technology has been advancing at an unprecedented pace. Today we have the Google self-driving car, AMAZON's Prime Air, delivering packages via drones, and locally, Rong Heng Seafood Restaurant using robot waiters. There are also various experiments around augmented reality and virtual reality – those of us who are fans of "Pokemon Go" will know what I am taking about. This augmented reality game that took the world by storm and accomplished what many health practitioners could not do, which is to get their patients to go outside, to be more active. By motivating players to search for Pokemons, walk with their buddies to find candies or hatch their eggs, Pokemon Go managed to make people the world over walk a combined distance of 4.6 billion kilometers since its launch in summer, up till early Sep. To put that in perspective, that is about 6000 return trips to the Moon or about 15 return trips to the Sun! It also brought people together, literally, at the Pokemon hotspots, and not just around the water cooler. The social element of the game encourages people to interact and bond with family, friends and even strangers through a common activity, with a common goal.

  3. As much as technology evolves and advances, and we need to leverage on technology to help us in the work that we do, the qualities and social fabric that make us human still remain the same. You would have heard of this saying - "The more things change, the more things stay the same". We still want to have fun, be happy, be loved, find our passion and find meaning in life. I came across a quote that says "life has little meaning except for the impact that it has on other lives". How true. When we only do things for ourselves, and focus only on ourselves, after a while, you will find that it is somewhat hollow, somewhat meaningless. For most of us, what is meaningful and enduring, is the impact we have on the lives of others. To help others live better, to improve their condition, to help them believe in themselves, to help them achieve more than they thought possible. Through the choices you have made, including the decision to pursue your present course of study, you have put yourself on a path where you can find meaning. 

Why pursue "meaning"

  1. Finding meaning in work is important for fulfillment and more importantly, to overcome inevitable challenges that you will face in your career. I challenge you to go beyond chasing wealth or success, and even beyond chasing happiness, to find meaning in whatever job you do and whatever career you decide to build from now. While happiness as an emotion is invigorating in the moment, it is temporal and ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; feelings of pleasure are fleeting. Happiness can be affected by a nasty boss, a difficult client or even missing a deadline. Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It exists regardless of the difficulties and challenges that you face.
  1. You had many considerations when you first decided what course of study to do. For some of you, it may have been a life experience that prompted you to embark on your degree. As you once again leave the halls of school and immerse yourself in work, I encourage you to think back on the fire and motivation you had 3 or 4 years ago.
  1. Whether you realise it or not, all of us here have the opportunity to play a part in transforming and improving the lives of others, to create a more caring society. Now the next question is, how do we do this, to enable everyone in society to live dignified lives? We at NCSS are constantly looking at the best way to answer this question.

Enabling Dignified Lives

  1. So, last year, we embarked on an extensive study to understand the quality of life of our vulnerable population groups. For Persons with Disabilities and Persons with Mental Health Issues, inclusion was identified as the strongest factor to increase overall quality of life. Not a higher paying job, not more money, not the latest iPhone, but inclusion – a very fundamental, a very human desire. We are after all, social creatures. The findings also note that 70% of People with Disabilities want greater independence, which includes the capacity to work and to have control over their lives. However, more than one third of the public indicated they would not employ persons with disabilities if they were an employer. These may be statistics but behind these numbers are real people, with real desires, and real repercussions. As we move towards becoming a first world country, we must not neglect the different and the disadvantaged.
  1. In response to the findings from the study, and in collaboration with Tote Board, we launched a five-year public education effort to promote inclusion. The Disability Awareness Campaign – "See The True Me", aims to shift the public'’s perception to see beyond and even be blind to our differences, to fulfil our vision of an embracing and inclusive society. And, we have seen some changes.
  1. In terms of employment, more employers are appreciating what persons with disabilities can bring to the workplace. The number of persons with disabilities who found jobs has also steadily increased.

Ecosystem Approach

  1. Over the past 10 years, Budget initiatives have helped strengthen Singapore's social safety nets, focusing on protecting the vulnerable and supporting social mobility. Compared to a decade ago, healthcare spending has increased almost six times to $11 billion, and spending on education has doubled. Under Our Singapore Fund, Government has set aside up to $25 million to support meaningful citizen-led, ground-up projects that build the spirit of caring and resilience, nurture our can-do spirit, and promote unity and our sense of being Singaporean.
  1. However, government initiatives and spending alone will not be sufficient. It is about the collective mindset, attitudes and actions of all of us that will allow everyone in Singapore to be accepted and feel included.
  1. For many of you, your education in social work, counseling, psychology and early childhood education has equipped you to help others in your professional capacity. I urge you to also consider what you can do to impact and influence the vulnerable beyond your professional role, in the workplace, social or public space, to achieve a more inclusive society and enrich the lives of the vulnerable. For those of you who do not pursue a career in the social service, do keep in mind that everyone, no matter what job you are in, has the power to influence, change perceptions and beliefs, to enable dignified lives. Make work a purpose, not just a place.


  1. I am sure all of you are eager to collect your certificates and celebrate with your loved ones and friends. Take pride in the moment, and look back at what you have accomplished with a sense of accomplishment. But more importantly, look forward to the endless possibilities ahead.
  1. As I end my address, I am reminded of a quote by Socrates – Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel. With the fire that is now ignited within you, look ahead, and determine for yourselves, the impact that you want to make, the legacy you want to leave behind, and live a life with meaning and purpose.
  1. Once again, congratulations, and I wish each and every one of you every success.
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