Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the 2016 President’s Scholarship Award Ceremony On 23 August 2016 At The Istana

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Mrs Teo

Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng and Mrs Ng


Chairman and Members of the Public Service Commission

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening

Every year, the President’s Scholarship is awarded to exceptional young men and women who pledge to serve Singapore and Singaporeans through a career in the Public Service. Recipients of the President’s Scholarship are among the most outstanding in their cohort. Besides achieving academic excellence, the recipients are distinguished by their leadership qualities, sound values and commitment to improving the lives of the people in our community.

2016 President’s Scholars

This evening, the Public Service Commission recognises five outstanding young men and women for their leadership capabilities and strong passion to contribute to the continued success of Singapore.

They are Mr Joshua Chin Zen Jie, Miss Natasha Ann Lum Mei Seem, Mr Timothy Ong Kah Yong, Miss Olivia Ong Si Hui and Mr Sean Ong Zhi Han. Joshua and Natasha will be serving in the Singapore Armed Forces. Joshua will be studying Environmental Science. Natasha is the second ever female recipient of the SAF scholarship and President’s scholarship. Timothy will read Law and join the Singapore Legal Service upon graduation. Olivia will be reading Psychology, and Sean History.

My heartfelt congratulations to the five of you. 

Continuing our Forefathers’ Legacy

Two weeks ago, we gathered to celebrate Singapore’s 51st year of independence.

Our forefathers dedicated their lives to transforming Singapore from a small trading port to a successful first world nation. Despite hailing from diverse cultures and backgrounds, they shared the vision of creating a better future for Singapore, and took on challenges with courage and determination.

In the formative years of our nation, we were blessed with leaders, like former President S R Nathan. Mr Nathan dedicated his life to serving Singapore. He struggled side by side with others of his generation, united in the same purpose – to help our fledgling Singapore flourish. He truly embodied the values of public service, placing country before self even to the point of quite literally risking his life, during the Laju hijacking incident. He was a fearless defender of Singapore’s interests abroad, and a passionate nation-builder at home, patiently weaving the fabric of a caring and cohesive society.

From starting the President’s Challenge to encourage more Singaporeans to help the less fortunate, to investing in Singapore’s future through education, to promoting racial and religious harmony, his heart for and commitment to the people of Singapore were clear and inspiring. Mr Nathan will be missed.

As we reap the fruits of this previous generation’s labour, we continue to need leaders with resilience, commitment and foresight, who will build on the foundations laid for us.

Building a Future-Ready Singapore

This year is a turning point for Singapore as we enter our next half century as an independent nation. While those who came before have left us a rich legacy, we remain a small country with no natural resources apart from our people. We constantly need to refresh our knowledge and renew our system to safeguard Singapore from external threats and prepare ourselves for the future.

As recipients of the President’s scholarship, you bear a special responsibility to continue the efforts to take Singapore forward. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and seek opportunities to broaden your outlook. In doing so, you will acquire fresh perspectives that enable you to connect the dots from global developments to national issues.

As leaders of our future generations, you play an integral role in leading by example to inspire fellow Singaporeans to become forward-looking citizens.

This future-orientation is necessary because Singapore and the world around us are changing ever faster. The effects of globalisation and rapid technological change can be seen in everything from the volatility of our external environment, to the growing threat of trans-national terrorism and to the changing aspirations of our citizens.

To keep pace with these changes, you will need to challenge yourselves and continually push boundaries in acquiring new skills that are pertinent to the future.

As public officers, you will need not just to forge ahead yourselves, but to inspire fellow citizens to come with you, cultivating citizens’ sense of ownership as you build Singapore together. To do this you must stay closely connected to the ground, and listen closely and respectfully to the concerns and opinions of the people.

As you lead Singapore towards a brighter future, remain true to our culture, heritage, values, and the core principles that our forefathers believed in. Never lose sight of the mission to serve the people and our nation.


Let me conclude by congratulating the families, principals and teachers of our new President’s Scholarship Recipients. You were essential in shaping their character, values and strong ethos for service. Your support and guidance throughout the years have nurtured them into outstanding individuals.

Joshua, Natasha, Timothy, Olivia and Sean - I am confident that all five of you will do Singapore proud, and be role models of the Public Service values of Integrity, Service and Excellence for those around you. Embrace your responsibility to become exceptional public service officers, and dedicate yourselves to going the extra mile in serving our nation and our people.

I wish you success in your journey ahead, and look forward to you serving the nation with passion and pride when you begin your career in the Public Service.

Thank you.