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Of Love, Life and Family

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & IT and Trade & Industry - Speech Temasek Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & IT and Trade & Industry - Speech
Temasek Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony
Singapore, 19 August 2000

Two years ago, when the Singapore economy was going through the Asian economic crisis, many of our school leavers were concerned that they might not be able to find jobs upon graduation.

Jobs were in short supply at that time, in Singapore as well as other parts of the world. In Europe, 1 out of every 4 school leavers had difficulty securing a job; in Australia, it was 1 in 5; in Singapore, it was 1 in 7.

Since then, our economy has returned to healthy growth. Last year, the economy grew by more than 5%. In the first half of this year, it grew even faster, by 8.8%. More jobs are being created, and we are seeing smiling faces again among our young school leavers.

With the economic crisis behind us, our aim is to sustain economic growth at between 4% to 6% a year for the next 10 years.

To achieve this, we are taking bold steps to transform into a knowledge based economy so as to remain competitive. We are pursuing new economic activities in emerging sectors such as e-Commerce and life sciences.

At the same time, we are restructuring and upgrading traditional sectors so that all sectors of our economy will keep pace with the emergence of the New Economy.

As Jack Welsh of GE put it: "There is no "old" economy. There is no "new" economy. There is only "the" economy."

By transforming the old into new, and synergising the new with the old, we aim to inject more vibrancy in our economy, and create enough opportunities for all Singaporeans, young and old, to realise their full potential, now and into the future.

As we go through this rapid pace of change towards the New Economy and Information Society, one may wonder, what is in store for us in the future, 25 years from now?

It is easy for anyone to predict the future 100 years from now, because we will all be dead by then. But to predict the future 25 years from now is a risky thing to do. The prediction is likely to be wrong, and many of us here will still be alive to find that out.

Notwithstanding the risk involved, I am going to take my chance to share with you some predictions of what will become of you, 25 years from now.

I ask you to take a look at the persons sitting on your left, your right, in front of you, and behind you. Please remember their faces, and their names too. Even better, make a date for the five of you to get together on 19 August 2025, exactly 25 years from now, to verify whether these predictions will come true.

When the five of you meet again in 2025, each of you is likely to earn an income of about $100,000 a year, in today's currency. Of course, some will make more, some may make less. But on average, about $100,000 a year.

Of the five of you, 2 or 3 are likely to be holding university qualifications by then, having gone through further studies.

However, if the five of you are all females, then at least 1 of you is likely to remain single.

As for those of you, young men and ladies, who will get married between now and 2025, you are likely to have only two children, on average. This is enough to replace you and your spouse, but not enough to make up for those who will remain single, not to mention growing our population to 4.5 million one day.

In other words, as a group, all our young graduates here in this hall today will not be producing enough babies to replace everyone who is graduating today. Something worth thinking about.

By the time you meet in 2025, you are likely to have another 35 years to live to the age of 80, maybe even longer. You are likely to remain healthy for another 25 years till 2050. After that, you are likely to suffer from some illnesses in the last 8 to 10 years of your life.

What do you think of these predictions? Are you looking forward to a future where we may possess higher qualifications and enjoy good income, but not necessarily good health or happiness? Should we accept this as our future?

I did not plug these predictions out of thin air. These are straight- line projections based on today's social trends. If we do nothing to change the course of the future, if we allow current trends to continue, there is every possibility that at least 20% of our female polytechnic graduates present here today will end up not getting married at all. Also, those who will get married will not produce enough babies to replace all of the adults, and many of us will live the last 8 to 10 years of our lives suffering from some illness.

Some of you will agree with me that this is not the best future we would like to have for ourselves, for our friends and our fellow Singaporeans.

There is no reason at all why we should accept this as the natural outcome of our future. All of you here are still young, and your future is still in the making. Why not take the future in your hands now, and start creating one that will be much better for you, and for everyone?

So, instead of talking to you about information technology and how to compete in the knowledge based economy, I would like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on living a more fulfilling life.

My first thought on living a more fulfilling life is, let's strive to be a better and more useful person, by getting our hands dirty, doing real work, and making real contributions, everyday of our lives.

There is a saying that when we first come out to work, we know everything about nothing. By the time we reach the top, we end up knowing nothing about everything. Not sure if this is true, but it does remind us not to waste our precious time.

There is nothing more satisfying than to learn and contribute at the same time. Instead of thinking about how to get to the top in great hurry, I urge you to take it one step at a time, keep your feet firmly on the ground, and enjoy the journey as you work your way up.

Learn and improve yourself along the way, so that you will not end up knowing nothing about everything when you finally get to where you aspire to be.

My second thought on living a more fulfilling life is, not matter how capable we are as individuals, we all need strong teamwork to overcome the many challenges in life because good things in life do not come easy.

A few days ago, I visited Outward Bound Singapore. A group of 40 young Singaporeans had just returned the night before from a 4-day round-the-island expedition in canoes.

They returned a few hours late because at one part of the expedition, they encountered strong head wind and had to paddle against the tide. They paddled very hard, only to remain very much on the same spot. After awhile, some of them wanted to give up. Some even thought of capsizing intentionally, so that they could be picked up by the motorised safety boat.

Fortunately, working as a group, they encouraged each other not to give up. They paddled together and fought the head wind and the current. Finally, after more than one hour of hard work and teamwork, they succeeded to move ahead out of that area, and carried on.

Even though they returned late in the night feeling very tired, I could feel their tremendous sense of satisfaction when they related their experience to us. They were proud of themselves, and we were proud of them.

Nowadays, we often read about success stories in the papers. It is easy to forget the fact that success in the New Economy will not come easy.

Competition will be keen, head wind will be strong. There will be times when you have to fight what seems like a losing battle. But never give up. Draw on your inner strength, and the strength of the people around you. Work as a team, stay with the team, never say die, and success will be yours, eventually.

My third thought on living a more fulfilling life is, having the right attitude to life makes all the difference. It is important to follow your heart and pursue satisfaction, not success, if you want to succeed in life.

Do not look at life as a rat race. Otherwise, the best you can become is nothing more than the number one rat, even if you win the race.

Instead of looking at your jobs as stepping stones to greater things to come, I think it is better to believe in every challenge, and enjoy every challenge, so that you will have the self-motivation to go the distance.

If you chase after success, success will run away from you. But if you believe in what you do, act with passion and excel in whatever you do, recognition and success will come to you, as a by-product, as a natural outcome of your passion and efforts, without you having to chase after them.

My fourth thought on living a more fulfilling life is, family is the greatest source of happiness.

You can spend all your time and energy chasing after wealth and success in the New Economy. But all the wealth in this world is not enough to make you a happy person, if you have no one to laugh with, no one to cry for.

Why not move around and meet as many people as you can. When the right one comes along, instead of using your head to calculate the risk and rewards of a relationship, why not let your heart do the talking, go ahead, fall in love, and commit yourself wholeheartedly.

After that, do not look back. Just look ahead, and do your part and do your best to make your marriage work for both of you, and your children.

Falling in love, getting married and having a happy family is such a great joy. Do not try to make it too complicated for yourself and your loved ones. Just open your heart, love and be loved.

My fifth and final thought on living a more fulfilling life is, be yourself, respect others, and have peace of mind.

There are two types of people in this world, the givers and the takers. It is up to each one of us to decide how much to give and how much to take as we live our lives. But along the way, do remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you are comfortable with yourself and happy to be yourself, you will not feel the stress of having to buy things you do not need, with money you do not have, to impress people you do not know.

In fact, you will discover that there is very little you need to take from others, and very little you need to do to impress others. Instead, you will have plenty to give, not so much in terms of money and material goods, but in terms of care and concern, laughter and tears.

So, be at peace with yourself, and let the people around you accept you for who you are, rather than try to be who you are not.

At the same time, accept and respect others too for who they are, regardless of their stations in life. I think we can all be happier and healthier just by being ourselves, while striving to be the best that we can be in whatever we have committed ourselves to do.

Dear graduands, someone once said that life is very much a DIY (do-it-yourself) project. How much we want to put into our lives, how much we want to get out of our lives, is all up to us to decide, to do-it-ourselves.

Instead of allowing some of these social trends I mentioned this morning to continue into the future, I hope you will think about altering the course and taking action when you are still young.

I wish you all the best as you go out there to create a better future, for yourself and the people around you.

Life is for living. So please live your lives to the fullest, everyday, from today. Have fun!