Good morning and I'm very happy to join you this morning for the MND EDGE Scholarship presentation ceremony.
Today, we welcome 48 scholarship recipients to the MND family. 39 of you are new, and you are joining us, and 9 of you are in-service staff � you are already working here and you will be pursuing further studies through scholarships that are granted to you.
I want to start by congratulating all of you, and also to your family members who are here to support you. Let's give all our scholars a big round of applause.
MND and its agencies have been at the centre of Singapore's urban transformation over the last five decades. We've built HDB flats for Singaporeans, we've transformed our urban landscape, and we've made Singapore a Garden City.
It's easy to take all that we have today for granted. But the achievements did not come by so easily. It's through tremendous contributions from our founding leaders, as well as a lot of support from a very capable team of civil servants working together with them, and with Singaporeans.
In fact, some of you will know today is Racial Harmony Day � it's the 21st of July. So if you recall, back in 1964, this was the day, more than 50 years ago, when we had the racial riot, we had to overcome tremendous difficulties then in order to build a harmonious society.
In the early 60s, we had a major housing crisis; the British colonial government had commissioned studies to see how to resolve the problem. In fact in 1947, the British Housing Committee report said that Singapore was a chaotic and unwieldy metropolis and that it's developed through haphazard and unplanned growth. So population was growing steadily, but the British government then had no solution. We had the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), but all they could do was build about 680 housing units a year, and that was insufficient to accommodate the rapidly growing population. It was only when HDB was set up, under the leadership of Mr Lim Kim San and the team of HDB officers, that we were able to resolve the challenges, and in the first few years of its being, HDB started to build over 9,000 housing units a year, far more than what the SIT could do under the British colonial government.
Those were the early days where the Singapore government and the civil servants worked together with Singaporeans to overcome tremendous challenges during the tumultuous years of nation building. Today, we are at a new phase of development, but there are new challenges ahead as well, and also new opportunities to improve on what our pioneers have left behind for us. We are thinking about how we can build even better HDB towns. How can we transform our urban landscape and built environment? How can we enhance our biodiversity and food security? How can we make Singapore a City in a Garden, not just a Garden City? How do we prepare for the impact of climate change, including extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increased temperatures? Ultimately, it's about how we keep faith with one another to make Singapore a precious and shining jewel. Just a small little red dot, but it's a home for all of us, and we want to make sure that it's a special home for us, and for our future generations.
So that's the challenge that we have and the challenge that we will have to confront. When you return from your studies, all of you will join the MND family to contribute to this exciting work and help chart our way forward for Singapore.
What's the best way to prepare yourself for the work ahead? I will offer three suggestions this morning.
First, stay grounded and humble. All of you should rightfully be proud of your achievements, but remember - always retain the humility to learn from others and to improve yourself. Remember that education is not just about chasing that piece of paper. I'm sure all of you will graduate with good honours and good GPAs, and you'll get your degrees at the end of the day. But education is not just about that credential. It's about learning how to learn. It's about the curiosity to explore, and the unceasing quest to improve your knowledge and skills. So even after you finish your degree or your post-graduate degree, you must still continue to learn. And you can be sure that with this changing economy, with rapid changes in technology, anything you learn in school will be outdated three, four or five years later. By the time you come back to MND, there will be new things to learn. So it's especially important that when you go to university, you are not just there to pursue a piece of paper, but you are inculcating in yourself a deep sense of lifelong learning.
Second suggestion � embrace hard work. Getting a scholarship doesn't mean that you will be automatically assured of success in life. You have to come back, work hard, and prove yourself. In fact, because you are a scholar, we will have higher expectations of you, and more demands from you. I know many young people are concerned about work-life balance � I hear this all the time when I engage our young officers. Work-life balance is important and you should find your own balance. But work is also what gives substance and meaning to life, and that's a mindset that you find often in your grandparents, and in our pioneer generation. When I conduct my house visits and meet many older people in their 60s, some even in their 70s, some of them are doing blue collar jobs and they are still working. Working was never toil to those in the older generation. They embraced hard work, and working, to them, was more than just a job.
So in the end, it's about how you view your work. Is it just a job that comes with a paycheck every month, or do you regard your work as a calling to a higher purpose? Dr Goh Keng Swee used to say that joining the public service was a holy order. Don't worry, you're not joining a priesthood today, but the point of it is that if you view your work as a calling to a higher purpose, then you won't think of it as just a job. You think of it as a calling, and hopefully that means that you will do your best in whatever work you are assigned, and you will find meaning and fulfilment in what you do, knowing that it will serve a larger purpose, and make a difference in the lives of fellow Singaporeans.
Thirdly, my suggestion is to remember to pay it forward. You are receiving a scholarship because the community � your family, your teachers, many people in the community � have helped you get to where you are today. So find ways to give back to the society, to volunteer and serve others. When we serve, we meet people in circumstances that are different from ours, and we develop greater empathy and learn what it means to walk in the shoes of others. We develop a stronger sense of duty and responsibility for our fellow citizens, and this is what binds us. This makes us a community, it makes us better human beings, it makes us a greater nation.
So this is my simple advice � simple to say, but not easy to follow. All of us are still trying to do all of these things � to stay humble and grounded, to embrace hard work, and to give back to society in whatever ways you can.
In closing, just let me say that we are very proud of our scholars here today, and we are glad that we have so many talented individuals who will be contributing to MND's work in making Singapore a distinctive global city, and an endearing home. We wish all of you the very best in your studies, and we certainly look forward to welcoming you back in a few years' time.
Let me congratulate all our scholars once again, and I encourage you to chase the rainbow, help to carry the torch forward, and build an even better Singapore in the years to come.
Thank you very much.
Source: Ministry of National Development, Singapore