Speech by Ms Jean Tan, SIF Executive Director, at the Launch of “Singapore: Insights from the Inside Vol II” Book at Gardens by the Bay, Flower Field Hall

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Good evening. I am delighted to be among friends this evening, some of whom have generously shared their personal insights and experiences into Singapore’s head, heart and soul. You know the saying “Good friends are the ones who say nice things behind your back”. Well, what should we make of the 50 contributors to this book who say what they think to your face? And, have it published and distributed globally. All in the name of bridging communities and building greater understanding across cultures. I believe, these are true friends of Singapore and loving critics.

One such friend of Singapore is American thought leader Andrés Martinez. He achieved a deeper and better understanding of Singapore following his visit here in 2014 under the SIF-New America Foundation exchange. He concluded at the end of his stay that we are a canary. Singapore is “the canary in globalization’s gold mine”. Andrés had observed, the challenges and tensions that have emerged in Singapore, as we rapidly globalised. He cautioned; for all its brilliant achievements if Singapore is the perfect country for our times? He put forward; what Singapore will do next and how it fares as the bellwether of globalisation’s tenuous triumphs.

Closer to home - having worked here for the last 27 years - we have Esther Joosa. In her own words, she has “struggled with and made peace” with the different aspects of this country and its culture, contrasted to her native Netherlands. Her ‘pet peeve’ is our over reliance on academic knowledge and lack of creative thinking. But Esther is no arm chair critic. She saw an opportunity to use art – her discipline – to contribute to and help shape a more reflective society in Singapore. She has applied her skills to building bridges between people, especially to connect with the vulnerable in Singapore such as persons with Down syndrome. Esther is also a long-time international volunteer with the SIF where she uses art to heal – helping children with HIV in India overcome the stigma of disease and lead better lives with strength.

These and 48 other stories in this book by our international friends offer much food for thought - both in their praise and critique. The book is truly a testament to and celebration of the enduring relationships between Singapore and world communities - anchored in the belief that a better world begins with better understanding between countries and between people.

My heartfelt thanks to all our 50 friends for opening up and sharing their insights and well-meaning advice. Special thanks to Richard Hartung, volunteer editor of this edition. Your collective thoughts are timely, as Singapore reflects on the past and looks forward to the next 50 years, in celebration of our golden jubilee. I know your views will trigger in-depth conversations at today’s book launch, and beyond. And the SIF will take this dialogue beyond Singapore, in conversation with communities in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, London, and Washington DC this year.

Why does SIF do this? Because we want to build understanding across cultures. We seek a better world – one that is peaceful, inclusive and offers better opportunities for all. And such a world must start with better understanding among people. Thus, all of SIF’s programmes provide opportunities for cultures to connect. We bridge communities to build shared experiences & mutual understanding; we enable people to come together to foster a shared future through collaborations that enrich lives and effect positive change.

Thank you for being a part of the world we envision. I am pleased to launch Singapore: Insights from the Inside (Volume II).



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