Awesome Speeches and Essays concerning Singapore

I’ve read lots of wonderful things by and for Singaporeans, but I’ve never seen all of it in one place. So here you go!  

My way to affirming gays, by Reverend Yap Kim Hao [2013] I am not a religious person, but I deeply admire leaders like Reverend Yap. He speaks with sincerity and moral courage. I believe that his views are “ahead of the curve”, meaning in a decade or two from now, we will see it as something completely obvious on hindsight. Our grandchildren will be horrified by our petty small-mindedness.

Why we should be grateful to Sticker Lady [2012] Terence Chong’s eloquent commentary on the social implications of the arrest of skl0, a Singaporean artist.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love Someone. [2008] – Adrian Tan’s speech at NTU’s Convocation Ceremony in 2008. Humorous, unorthodox and deeply nourishing. Adrian wrote The Teenage Textbook, and he really needs to play a bigger role in shaping Singaporean thought and culture!

No U-Turn Syndrome (NUTS) - [ 1999] An excerpt from Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millenium, a book by Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo.  Here’s something that’s over a decade old at the time of this writing, yet still painfully relevant. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this one. Probably both, at the same time. :’)

The Ghosts of Whitley Road [2012] – An essay by Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum. This is about an important part of Singaporean history that is often whitewashed and overlooked. We cannot possibly move forward as a nation without acknowledging this crucial element of our identity. Whether we like it or not, Singapore’s progress has come at great cost. The quelling of social activism in the past may be very much related to the unfortunate levels of apathy today.

Paved With Good Intentions. – [2001] “How living in New York has illuminated for us the difference between the Singaporean Dream and the Singaporean Plan,” by Colin and Yen, a killer husband and wife combo. Colin’s a lawyer-turned-cartoonist, and Yen’s an educator. Insightful and compelling, and remarkably relevant, even a decade later. This article was the basis for the movie Singapore Dreaming.

Do We Owe Our Existence To The People’s Action Party? [2006] By Gayle Goh. Gayle used to be famous in the days before social media, when things went viral solely through forums and e-mail. She was featured in The Straits Times before- (strangely, I remember her cat being named BBQ Chicken.) She did Literature at Cambridge, and then English and Film Studies at UPenn. Facebook says she’s gotten married since, and is working in the Public Service Division.

Singapore is a Choice [2009] By Gayle Goh. This piece doesn’t have a title, so I thought I’d use my favourite line from the article instead. Gayle confronts pertinent issues on immigration, xenophobia and national identity with eloquence and wisdom.

Shaping and strengthening the Singaporean character. [2012] This is NCMP Janice Koh’s maiden speech at the Budget 2012 debate. It doesn’t technically have a title, so I took the liberty to give it one. I hope she doesn’t mind. Janice is an actor and thespian.

What The Modern Woman Wants, [2004] by Amanda Chong. Amanda wrote this when she was still a student in RGS. It won her the top spot in the international Commonwealth Essay Competition. She’s also won the Angus Ross prize (top Literature student from India to New Zealand) and the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, Britain’s most prestigious poetry prize for those aged 11 to 17. She went to Cambridge and is, at the time of this writing, doing Law at Harvard.

The Advantage Of Growing Up A Minority In Singapore, [2012], by Seker Sb. Seker wrote this in response to the Shimun Lai and Stanley Hart saga. This resonated powerfully with me, being a minority in Singapore myself. Hits you in the gut.

TPJC Valedictorian Speech [2009] by Madeline Wee. Maddy was one of the most fantastic peers I’ve ever been honoured to have, getting straight A’s in everything without becoming a lifeless shell. She had an unorthodox haircut and a tattoo around her ankle. We’re not close friends, but I read her blog, and have been deeply impressed (and indirectly, shamed) by her ethos and drive. The girl has soul. She’s currently studying Fine Arts at UCL, and I expect awesome things from her in the future.

Future of Singapore [2006] by Derek Wee. Derek was a national debater in 1990, and he writes with sincerity. This is the article that spawned the famous Wee Shu Min “get out of my elite uncaring face” saga. Derek has a wonderful CPF-based suggestion to ease the burden on unemployed and retrenched workers who’re actively looking for work- it really ought to be considered seriously!

The Duties That Accompany Change [2011], by Dharma Sadasivan. Dharma plays guitar for Singaporean band West Grand Boulevard. He was a voice of reason in the chaotic madness of the 2011 General Elections.

A Message From The Local Music Scene, [2008] by Levan Wee. Levan was the lead singer of Ronin, a Singaporean band that amassed quite a substantial following. He’s currently studying Sociology in Monash University, and he’s breaking all sorts of academic records. I continue to admire his tenacity and spirit.

Until We Awake, How Do We Learn To Live? My Vision For Singapore, by Gayle Goh. I know I’ve posted a lot of things by Gayle, but she’s really just a fantastic thinker and writer, and I feel she’s especially relevant to today’s discussions because she’s someone who grew up in the 90’s. Wonderful imagery, and poetically succinct.

Dharmendra Yadav interviews David Marshall [1994] by Dhamendra Yadav. David Marshall is someone that we all read about in our history books- yet how many of us really have a good idea of what kind of person he was like? Reading this, I’ve come to think that the Singaporean identity has been greatly diminished and impoverished by his loss. He may have died physically, but we can keep him alive in our thoughts and ideas. It is a privilege to witness his fantastic character and integrity.

Education in Singapore [2012], by Eugene Chiong. Eugene’s a Computer Science graduate. I don’t know him personally (though we have some mutual friends), and I find his writing a bit long-winded, but I thought I’d share it anyway, because it’s sincere and heartfelt, and consistent with everything else everyone else is feeling these days. Nice to hear from someone who isn’t from a literature/arts type background!

This list is by no means exhaustive. Do share anything wonderful that I’ve missed out, and I’ll add them here!

PS: If there’s one thing I’d like to add myself, it’s this- the Singaporean narrative is up for grabs. “What does it mean to be Singaporean?” It’s still a question mark. We still have the power to decide for ourselves what we want it to mean. And that is an immense responsibility and privilege, which many people before us have fought for on our behalf, and many people after us will be affected by. Let us act with courage and integrity.

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