Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, SIF Chairman, at SIF Connects! Washington DC

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening, and thank you for joining us at SIF Connects! Washington DC.

I am happy to be among friends and partners, to celebrate the warm and longstanding friendship between the Singaporean and American communities. Our ties have been forged not just at the government-to-government level, but also strengthened at the people-to-people level through SIF programmes over the past 24 years.

SIF Connects! Washington DC is our way of re-connecting with SIF programme alumni and American Friends of Singapore; it also demonstrates our commitment to continuing conversations between Americans and Singaporeans to strengthen mutual understanding. At the SIF, we strongly believe that a better world begins with better understanding. Such cross-cultural interactions provide insights that we hope will also inspire action and enable collaborations for good.

Our work with the US began in 1991 when six US Congressional Staff members visited Singapore under a special programme to gain first-hand insights into the head, heart and soul of our island nation. Since then, we have expanded the visit programmes to include American academics, journalists and thought leaders.

On the cultural front, Singaporean artists have engaged American communities to deepen cross-cultural appreciation. Through SIF’s Singapore Internationale programme, artists and arts groups from Singapore have presented their works in various cities across the United States and embarked on collaborations with their American counterparts. Through Little by Little, an SIF programme that facilitates arts and cultural exchanges with disadvantaged youth, the American community in Singapore has been able to share American culture and contribute to Singapore society.

In addition to such visits and exchanges, we have partnered American organisations on volunteer co-operation projects that provide tangible and immediate effects for developing communities. From 2010 to 2014, SIF worked with the Middletown Rhode Island Rotary Club in our Water for Life project to provide 17,000 Cambodian families with access to clean drinking water. Through this project, our volunteers also shared skills in, among others, basic reading and writing, as well as hygiene and family health with the Cambodian community.

We are committed to taking our good relations forward with the American community, as we consider What’s next, Singapore for the next 50 years. So here we are today, to seek the insights and advice of our programme partners and alumni at today’s SG50 Dialogue with Friends of Singapore on what Singapore traits we should preserve, build on, and possibly share with the rest of the world. Your perspectives and advice take on an added significance, not just for Singapore but for world communities at large, as attention is increasingly centred on cities.

Earlier today, we also appointed US House of Representatives Acting Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Matthew Herrmann as SIF’s first representative in Washington DC. I am also delighted that the SIF concluded an MOU with the US-Asia Institute as well, just this afternoon. This partnership will enable our organisations to pursue collaborations that would enable greater exchange of insights and perspectives at the people-to-people level. One key component of the MOU is the SIF-US Asia Institute Dialogue, where the community of US Congressional staff members who have visited Singapore, will play a key role in reaching out to a wider community of people in the US. The SIF-US Asia Institute Dialogue will commence in 2016, an auspicious year for bridging communities as we mark the 50th year of Singapore’s bilateral relationship with the United States, and SIF’s 25th anniversary.

Beyond dialogues and exchanges, SIF is exploring other collaborations with American partners in the social entrepreneurship space, as well as in the area of arts for social good. All this being done to create a more peaceful, inclusive world with opportunities for all. This is SIF’s vision of a better world.

Thank you for joining us today, and I wish you an enjoyable evening ahead.

 

 

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