Photo credit: National Youth Council

Youths takeaways from Quo Vadis Singapore? A Conversation with ESM Goh Chok Tong dialogue

Themed Onward Singapore, the dialogue allowed ESM Goh Chok Tong to share his insights on the challenges Singapore faced in its nation-building years.

Kenneth Yeo & Nabillah Jalal
Kenneth Yeo & Nabillah Jalal

Published: 4 April 2022, 10:52 AM

A dialogue, called Quo Vadis Singapore? A Conversation with ESM Goh Chok Tong, was held with Singaporean youths on Mar 19. 

Themed Quo Vadis, Singapore, or Onward Singapore in English, the conversation allowed Emeritus Senior Minister Goh to share his insights on the challenges that Singapore faced in its nation-building years. 

It also explored the key question as to how Singapore can remain resilient and united, against a backdrop of international and domestic challenges ranging from climate change, COVID-19 and increasing societal demands. 

The conversation was attended by INSPIRIT (a community of young professionals from the private, people and public sectors who are passionate and will advocate for youth interest on community and national issues) members, Holler (a group that provides safe space for youths interested in current affairs) members, as well as participants from various National Youth Council networks. 

Two youth leaders from the INSPIRIT community, Kenneth Yeo, who moderated the dialogue and is also a research analyst at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), and Nabillah Jalal, a music educator and pianist, share their takeaways from the dialogue session.

Youths can shape Singapore’s future

With ESM’s more than 40 years of experience as a senior statesman, I was certain that we would learn much about the complexities of policy and politics in Singapore. While it was intimidating, I felt privileged to have this conversation with a political giant like ESM Goh (editor’s note: Mr Goh was Singapore’s second Prime Minister, serving from Nov 28, 1990 till Aug 12, 2004.)  ESM repeatedly emphasised that the only constant in life is uncertainty and that we will always need to adapt to the environment. Nonetheless, while policies can change, principles must be upheld.

What resonated with me was not the answers he provided but how he came to the conclusions. ESM was able to articulate the principles behind his conclusions very clearly for issues pertaining to foreign policy, domestic issues, and the political climate in Singapore. Overall, this dialogue assured me that youths can shape our nation’s future. – Kenneth Yeo, 29, research analyst, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Singaporeans need to help each other along the way

Hearing insights from ESM Goh himself was something that I really looked forward to prior to attending the dialogue. As an educator, I am constantly looking out for important subjects to discuss with my students and to provide a holistic education for them. I just came with an open mind and was ready to be present and absorb all the information that was going to be shared by ESM as well as my peers. I was confident that subjects like Ukraine vs Russia, 4G leadership, as well as the next PM, will be asked. I was pretty certain that there will be things that ESM will not be able to answer directly and I was interested to see how he would tackle the questions, without revealing too much.

At the start of the session, ESM reminded us that the only certainty is uncertainty. It was a very simple reminder but it resonated a lot with me and reminded me that there are a lot of things that we can’t control. What we can do as Singaporeans is to prepare the best that we can help each other along the way and find each other’s Ikigai, or passion in life. – Nabillah Jalal, 29, Founder of NJ Studio 

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