[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

[Blog Competition]
SPEECH BY GEORGE YEO, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AT THE FIRST GEORGE YEO BLOG COMPETITION PRIZE PRESENTATION CEREMONY ON 5 NOVEMBER 2008 AT 5.00 PM AT ASIAN CIVILISATIONS MUSEUM

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,
Boys and Girls,

1. Let me say how pleased I am to be here this afternoon to be part of an unexpected event. I started blogging upon the encouragement of Harold and Ephraim. It seems a long time ago. It was a new communication medium for me which I knew very little about. They invited me as guests on their websites and it turned out to be less difficult, less onerous than I thought. It became a way of keeping a diary.

2. Later I was persuaded by another group of friends to also start a Facebook account and I find playing among these different media an interesting experience for me and one which somehow keeps me closer in touch with the younger generation. In any society at any point in history there is a generation shift. There are those who are mature, then there is a younger generation coming of age.

3. All great institutions have to recruit carefully whether you are the civil service, whether you are a church, whether you are a university. The admission office, whatever you call it, is very important. If you don’t take in the right people whatever you do you are not likely to achieve the outcome that you want.

4. A good teacher is one who is able to see the adult in the child. And not all of us can see the adult in the child. Some can see it better than others and they are a treasure because they are better able to reach out to the adult in the child, mould it and help it achieve its fullest potential. But if we turn it the other way round, in the minds of children, we see glimpses of the future. As we grow older, it is inevitable that we lose touch with new things that are happening in the world.

5. New things which are influencing young children. And by somehow peering into what’s going on in their brains, we ourselves stay young, stay more attached, and develop a sense of the changes taking place in the world. And it is interesting that in life, small things are connected to big things. We never expected when we chose this day for prize presentation that this is also the day when the election results in the US are known. It was only in recent weeks that we discovered this happy coincidence.

6. Just a few hours ago, America elected its first African-American president. By any measure it is a historic event and a deeply inspiring one for a Black to become the leader of the most powerful country on earth. How did that happen? But it has happened. And looking at it, we cannot but feel lifted that somehow, despite our cynicism or our sense of reality, there is a higher idealism among human beings that at critical moments can transcend differences of race, of language and religion. It is dramatic. And these are dramatic times. Whether you look at the times from the viewpoint of China’s epiphany which is expressed in the Beijing Olympics or the financial crisis that the world is going through now, or the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the US.

7. We cannot but feel a certain transition taking place in the world. It will be years before it becomes clear what all this means but we know that it is a multi-polar world, a more diverse world, a more connected world. And that leadership is exercised no longer through hard power only but also through gentler methods of soft power - through persuasion - and increasingly much of it through the new media. And the use of new media was an important reason for Obama’s victory. Not merely in terms of being more efficient in reaching out or raising money but in getting through to segments of the electorate who might otherwise have stayed aloof from the larger mainstream process. And in this new media, in the effort reaching out to groups that may otherwise have not been included, there is a connection between what we do this afternoon and what has just happened in the United States. In that sense, we live in one world and it is an inter-connected world and what happens in one part of the world has an effect through technology, through our common humanity to other parts of the world.

8. I thank Harold and Vic Sent for sponsoring the prizes at this afternoon’s event. I thank them and Ephraim for helping to introduce me to the new media. It has been an enriching and an interesting experience for me. I thank the many students – primary school students, ITE, Poly, JC students, secondary school students, who have participated enthusiastically in this blog competition. In your essays written blog-style - not traditional style but blog-style -which I got to get used to myself, I am thrilled by what your hopes are for the future, not only for Singapore, but for the larger world. Thank you very much.



Do read my posts on Beyond SG and link up on Facebook if you have an account

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