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Transcript of Speech by Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the Foreign Service Scholarship Award Ceremony held on Thursday, 8 August 2019

by August 8, 2019 Government & Politics

Friends, colleagues, distinguished guests, and of course, scholarship recipients.

2 A very good afternoon to all of you. First, let me begin to reiterate my warmest congratulations to all the eight recipients of the Foreign Service Scholarship. Of course, I also stand here as a parent, and nothing gives you deeper joy than seeing the child whom you have nurtured now for almost two decades do well, and get onto that threshold of being parents. I think it is a moment of great joy and great pride. So, my congratulations to the parents and to the grandparents who are here as well.

3 For the eight of you, today marks the beginning of your journey as a scholar, undergraduate and also as a Foreign Service Officer. I hope you feel a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and you should feel a certain tension and a little bit of nervousness as well. I want to tell you first the bad news is that it is going to be very, very hard work. And, unfortunately for Foreign Service Officers, it will be a sacrifice not only for the officer himself or herself, but also for their families. But, the good thing is that this sacrifice that you will make over a lifetime will be a fulfilling one. Because this will be an opportunity for you to be a part of something that is larger than yourselves.

4 Today, we will be presenting the Foreign Service Scholarship and I need to tell you, in all frankness, that a scholarship is more than just a contract; more than just a sum of money to pay off tuition fees or accommodation. A scholarship actually represents a commitment. A commitment to serve Singapore. A duty that you have freely, voluntarily, entered into. But it is also a privilege. A privilege to serve and to know that you will play a crucial role in safeguarding the success and survival of Singapore. The reality is that tomorrow we celebrate 54 years of independence. Some things have not changed. Singapore remains small, vulnerable and extremely exposed to the external environment. For this reason, it remains as imperative today as it was 54 years ago for Singapore to engage the global community, to make friends where we can, and also to be able to take steps to safeguard and advance our national interests. That means being able to smile, being able to shake hands, being able to understand and engage our counterparts, but also the ability to stand firm and hold decisions. We need both the soft and the hard elements.

5 And we will all know, just by reading papers or watching the news, that we are living in increasingly uncertain and volatile times. It is true that we enjoy remarkable peace and security in Singapore and within the region. But we all should know that the security landscape is becoming increasingly complex and uncertain. Globalisation and free trade, a formula which has worked to secure peace and prosperity for the seven decades since the end of World War II, all that is under pressure. Terrorism and cyber threats continue to grow, and against this backdrop, Singapore’s manoeuvring space, which has always been narrow, will continue to be narrow, and perhaps even narrower. We will then have to tread our way through and navigate our way without losing our values. And so it is critical for us to have a Foreign Service with top quality officers who have the skills, the heart, the mind and the commitment to do what is right for Singapore in the long run. These are the critical ingredients that we need for Singapore to survive and prosper.

6 I hope you will use the next few years you have in front of you as an undergraduate. Use it wisely as you embark on this journey towards becoming a full-fledged Foreign Service Officer. I have no doubts you will do well. In fact, all of you have done well academically so far. But let me also mention that this next few years should be the highlight of your lives. The university period is the time for you to explore and to discover yourself, your values, your friends, your cause, what you stand for and what will give you fulfilment for the rest of your lives. This is the time to expand your mind, your horizons, your experiences, your networks and your friends. So open your minds and immerse yourself in the new environment that you find yourself in, and broaden your perspectives. Make full use of the opportunities that this scholarship presents and strive to do well in everything that matters in your lives. What I’m saying is to go far, far beyond your goals. And even as you do this, remember that you have got to keep our flag flying high. And remember that from this day forward, you already are a representative of this noble cause called Singapore.

7 So let me end by congratulating you for having done well so far, and even better by choosing this scholarship and being selected by my colleagues in this Ministry for this scholarship. You will face excitement, you will face problems, you will face challenges in the years to come, but treat this as a wonderful adventure of growth and know that what awaits you is a lifetime of both sacrifice and fulfilment. So thank you, congratulations, and I wish you all the very best. And again to the parents, grandparents, congratulations and enjoy the rest of the day. Thank you all very much.

2019 Foreign Service Scholars (From left to right: Joshua Tham Junyi, Sabariesh Ilankathir, Gan Persis, Isabella Hee Huey Wen, Siobhan Charlotte Tan Xue Qi, Neo Xuan Ling, Samuel Loh Ke Qin, Theodore Chia Ding Sheng)

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore