Thoughts on Nation Building From A Singaporean Mom

This has been a heady year. It started on 23 March with the passing of our founding Prime Minister. It was followed by a week of unexpected and unprecedented mourning and displays of unity as a nation. That week brought tears to my eyes on a daily basis. I think that in one short week, the majority of us realized our identity as a nation, not just a state.

Then in the last one month, the nation prepared for our golden jubilee. There were fireworks, Black Knights, aerial displays, mobile columns, heart rending songs of national pride. Everywhere we went, we could see little snippets of Singapore as we knew it, Singapore as we know it, and glimpses of Singapore that we do not yet know. It all culminated on 9 Aug with the grandest National Day parade we have ever seen. It was a justifiable expense to celebrate our golden jubilee. I have never felt prouder as a Singaporean.

As I pondered over the meaning of the golden jubilee, our trials and tribulations as a nation, and the recent events, it became apparent how I can do my part as a stay-at-home-mom and how I can contribute to nation building. In fact, if I may so boldly put it, nation building starts at home and I want my children to grow up knowing what it is to be a Singaporean.

I will teach them about our history.
Not the Sang Nila Utama or the Sir Stamford Raffles parts. That, I will leave to the schools. Instead, I will tell them about the accidental birth of a nearly still born state. About Lee Kuan Yew and his legacy. About his iron will and determination to succeed. About his clarity of thought of how Singapore must survive as a nation. About his vision of a garden city that bore fruit after many decades.

About why we must be tough and keep ourselves strong. About why we had that first national day parade in 1966. About why they must serve the nation when they turn 18. About why we dam up all our rivers for water. About why we are so clean and obsessed about preventing corruption. About why our highly efficient public service actually works.

About why we are all living in high rise apartments and no longer have a hole in the ground in the backyard. About why we are so obsessed with meritocracy and school results. About why we are so adamant about equity and equal opportunity. About what a very different Singapore would have looked like if we had not made certain tough decisions.

I will teach them the values of our pioneering generations.
About the pioneering generations’ ingenuity and hard work in transforming our country into what it is today. That it is not just about them. “…ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – John F. Kennedy.

I will teach them that there is more to life than getting good school results. That intellect is no substitute for wisdom. That they should pay forward to society so that their next generation will benefit as we have benefited from the efforts of our pioneers.

I will teach them that they must learn to think.
Our achievements over the last 50 years are not repeatable by following a tried and tested recipe. The world has changed and we must adapt as our forefathers have. Technology has transformed the world. There will probably not (maybe never) be another Lee Kuan Yew to guide Singapore to the next 50 years.

The plurality and diversity of thought and freely expressed dissenting views will become the norm. The sharp intellect of a chosen few may not be enough to bring us through. What we need may be a paradigm shift in thinking and doing.

Singapore can no longer just add value. It may no longer be enough. To survive and flourish in the next 50 years, Singapore must create value. To create value, we must think, imagine, innovate, and create the next internet, the next Facebook, the next Space-X, Lunar-X.

I can’t teach them how to imagine, innovate or create. It is innate in children. But I shall focus on preventing myself from killing their inquisitiveness and imagination.

The world is changing faster than we can ever imagine. If we were to stick to our old paradigms, we will become second rate and mediocre. My part to nation building will thus be to prepare my children for the new world unfolding in front of their eyes. I don’t think that I will ever be ready for it but I think they will.


Other posts inspired by LKY
5 Parenting Lesson from Mr Lee
Images of Singapore
Your Legacy Lives On

Some National day posts that I enjoyed reading
SG50 – The Lady turns 50 – by Yann
What National Day this year means to me – by Lyn
A New Beginning – by Dorothea
SG50 and beyond, we will get there – by Veraday
I’ll be 57 … – by Angie
Hop on this blog train to see what Singapore means to these mothers.