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Nanyang Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony 2013

Good afternoon, members of the Nanyang Poly family, parents, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Before I start my speech I always invite all the graduates to stand up if you may, move around, look for your parents and give them a round of applause for contributing towards your success. Thank you, thank you very much. Please be seated. 
 
I always invite the graduates to do this simple gesture for a very simple reason: We are here today to celebrate the happy occasion of your graduation. There are two very critical factors that enable us to be  united here today. First and foremost, it has to do with your hard work and dedication over the last three years or more. It is because of your hard work and discipline, that is why you are here. But just as important, if not more important than your hard work, you are also able to stand proudly here today because of the efforts of your parents, your teachers, your loved ones and the opportunities offered to us by society of ours. We can work very hard, we can be very intelligent, but  if this society has not given us the opportunities to succeed in life, then no matter how hard you work, you will not be here on this happy occasion. This is the reason why I start off every graduation speech by inviting the graduates to remember the people who have contributed to your success. 
 
It is also with the same spirit that I encourage you to pay it forward so that future generations of Singaporeans will too, have the opportunity to enjoy the success that you had. We are here today because of what our forefathers and our parents had done for us. It is thus incumbent for us to pay it forward similarly, for the future generations that they too, will continue to enjoy success for many more years to come.
 
Having said that, I like what the Principal and CEO of Nanyang Poly mentioned earlier about lifelong learning. The most important skill set that you can acquire from Nanyang Poly over the last few years goes beyond the subject matter of what you have studied - social science, the health sciences, engineering, information technology, so on and so forth. All those are important in their own right. All those are foundation of skills which you will find useful in years to come. But most important of all of these skill sets that you would have acquired, is learning to learn. Because from my limited experience of working in the outside world, I can only share with you that whatever foundation skills you have, it is the basic. What is most important when you come out to work or pursue your further studies, is learning to learn. 
 
Many of the things that you will come across in your onward journey in life will not be taught in the textbook. Once upon a time, I studied economics in school. I went on to spend 23 years of my life in the military. You might wonder, what has economics to do with the military? But what I learnt in economics is not just about economics. What I learnt, is a set of skills that trains my mind, to analyse the issues, to break down problems, to find solutions, to work in teams, to apply ideas across different disciplines so that I can come up with new and innovative solutions regardless of the challenges that I face.
 
My sister studied accountancy and went on to become an accountant. After three years of working, she too realised that whatever she has learnt in accountancy, in school, was the basic. She had to re-learn many more things when she started working and it was the spirit of continuous learning that put her in good stead. I guess that would be the same for me and I am sure that it would also be the same for you. Once upon a time, if you graduate from school with one single set of skills, we’ll be able to hold a job for a lifetime, as our parents did. But the economic cycles and the technological cycles are accelerating. Today, a single set of skills may no longer be sufficient to keep us in lifetime employment. What is more important is for us to make sure that we keep learning. 
 
My final point comes to this particular cohort of graduating students. Many of you come from the health sciences and social service. You have heard many things about our growing population, our ageing demographics. This in itself presents both challenges and opportunities. Going forward, we will have many new and emerging social needs that will range from taking care of many more elderly, providing more companionship, avoiding isolation of the many seniors amongst us. 
 
At the same time, there will be many more families who will be facing complex social challenges that range from income stability, family break-up, education opportunities for the low income and so on and so forth. All these challenges which we have heard about, will be continued to be talked about in the many years to come.
 
Going forward, what we need is not just a number of people to provide a critical mass in these sectors. More important than the quantity of students that we can graduate to join the sector, is the quality of ideas that we have going forward. We know that to take care of the elderly is not just a health science issue. It will require better healthcare, better systems of healthcare. It will also require the integration of social support so that we  canprovide holistic care to the growing number of elderly amongst us, so that we can provide integrated health and social services for the many families that need them. This requires new thinking.
 
There will be many ideas that we can learn from other countries. But no matter how good the ideas may be we will still need to contextualise them and apply them in context for our local scenarios. At the same time, we will also need to develop new models of care for our elderly and our vulnerable families in time to come. These new models of care will not just encompass medical science, but it also requires the integration of social science. Only when we are able to integrate the social science and the healthcare science together, can we evolve new models of care. 
 
Let’s take an example. Today, not every elderly who is sick will need to go into an acute hospital for acute care if there is a serious medical issue. Prior to admitting someone into an acute hospital, there will be many opportunities for us to develop new models of care in the community and at home, for us to provide the spectrum of care options for our ageing population. This is where we need new ideas. Otherwise, if we only admit people into the acute hospitals, regardless of their socio-emotional needs or their healthcare needs, then we will be spending a lot of resources, and the results may only have minimum impact. This is where it is very important that you continue to maintain the network that you have so carefully built up over the last three years. The way to develop new ideas, the new models of care that encompass both the social and medical side does not require only strong institutional links, it also requires personal links. 
 
For those of you who have forged friendship across the health sciences faculty to the social science faculty, you must treasure this relationship. Because you never know, maybe one day, two persons from two different faculties will come together, cross-fertilise ideas, and provide new models of care for Singapore and Singaporeans. It is this network that is so important, and it is so important for you to maintain that as you graduate today.
 
We do not know what the new model of healthcare and social care will be in the next 10 to 15 years, but what we know is that in 10 to 15 years, the landscape of Singapore will be drastically different. How different, and how innovative that landscape will be, will very much depend on you, because you will provide the leadership for the next generation of health and social care for Singapore and Singaporeans.
 
I look forward to your contributions and I am confident that Nanyang Polytechnic has given you a strong foundation to achieve that for Singapore and Singaporeans. So long as we remind ourselves that we keep learning, keep our discipline, maintain our ethos to want to contribute to something beyond our own personal aspirations, to answer the higher calling, to serve the nation, then this country will be in good stead. Your contribution to the health and social science sector will be one of the many pieces that we look forward for the next generation of Singaporeans contributing towards a better Singapore. Only when we work together, providing our inputs in our respective fields, will we make for a stronger Singapore. 
 
On that note, I encourage you to continue to keep learning as you have derived from the ethos from Nanyang Poly. Maintain the network and constantly challenge yourself to come forward to provide new models of healthcare, new models of social services, in an integrated manner, for our growing number of elderly and for the vulnerable families amongst us.
 
In doing that, you have not only fulfilled your own aspirations. In doing that, you have served a higher calling for our country beyond yourself. And when you, and we all, do that together, we will have a better Singapore for many more years to come.  We will pay it forward so that in many more years to come, we will have many more generations of graduates graduating from our polytechnics to serve our own country to provide a better homeland for ourselves. 
 
Thank you very much, and I wish you all the best.
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