3 takeaways from PM Wong’s dialogue with 900 youths 


Last Tuesday (July 2), Prime Minister Lawrence Wong spoke to over 900 students at the Institute of Policy Studies-Varsity Voices dialogue held at the Singapore Management University (SMU).  

In his speech, Mr Wong shared his thoughts about the challenges Singapore face and his vision for the future. Here are three takeaways from the dialogue session that Gen-Z (and all of us) can benefit from. 

1. The Government will do more to support Singaporeans at every stage of life 

Contrary to popular belief, youths today do not have an easier life. While they might enjoy more material comforts than any other generation, the challenges they will face are immense. For a start, the world has become dangerous and fragmented. Climate change and the rise of Artificial Intelligence will upend established practices in how we live and how we work. 

It is a sobering look at the big and powerful forces shaping Singapore’s external environment. As an economy that benefits from being open to the world, there is little we can do to halt that tide of change. 

However, what is within our control is our ability to “adapt and adjust to a new environment”, said Mr Wong. Morphing and changing, blending and integrating, to survive and thrive. And so, in this uncertain world, one of the changes the PAP has vowed to do is to provide greater assurances for Singaporeans at every stage of life.  

“We want Singaporeans to feel assured that they can look forward to affordable and quality homes, a good healthcare system, and an education system that nurtures diverse talents. 

“We will have stronger safety nets to help Singaporeans bounce back from setbacks. And we want to have in place a system where no one feels that they have to fend for themselves in an uncertain world,” said Mr Wong.  

It is reassuring, especially when it is coming from a Government that not only gets things right but also gets them done. 

2. Stop unhealthy comparisons. Instead, find meaning in what you do and chart your own definition of success.  

Reflecting on the paradox of choice, Mr Wong acknowledged that the many more opportunities young people are confronted with today can be overwhelming. It is here that he offered some sage advice to our youths unsure about making the right choice, who find themselves comparing with what their friends are doing. 

“My suggestion for all of you, is to start from within. Do not compare, do not ask what your friends are doing. We all have our own abilities and strengths, there is no need to compare with others to squeeze into boxes we were not meant to fit. Instead, follow your own talents and strive to reach your own full potential.” 

It became clear that Mr Wong’s beliefs have been shaped by his experiences. Sharing with the audience his time working in the Civil Service, Mr Wong spoke of the disappointment and pressures he felt about his peers who earned more and those on the fast track to promotion. 

“I did think of leaving the Civil Service at one stage. But over time, I met with mentors who encouraged me to focus on my work and think about the impact of my work.” 

Eventually, the dedication paid off. But more importantly, comparisons become less important once you focus on what you think is meaningful and fulfilling, added Mr Wong.  

Embrace lifelong learning and work hard to pursue excellence  

Finally, Mr Wong addressed a modern-day phenomenon – impatience and the myth of instant gratification. The downside of living in a fast-paced world is the idea that we must be good at what we do and fast. However, your talents do not exist fully formed, nor can you become an instant expert, said Mr Wong.  

Instead, learning must continue even when we leave school.  

“Cultivate and nurture your abilities and strengths. Along the way, you will very likely face some rejections and setbacks. But if you work hard…your talents will be recognised, other doors will open, and you find new possibilities to flourish and thrive.” 

Mr Wong’s can-do attitude is inspiring. Not just to youths about to enter the workforce but to anyone in the doldrums of life. But what’s telling are the opportunities the Government is providing to make the pursuit of excellence in diverse interests a reality. 

Investing in the SkillsFuture scheme to make training accessible. Introducing unemployment support to the involuntarily displaced. These are just some policies designed to encourage Singaporeans to pursue their passions and hone their skills. All while providing the reassurance to say it’s alright to stumble and fall along the way. 

Amidst a new era of geopolitical and technological upheaval, it is crucial our young people do not feel daunted or disillusioned about the future that awaits them.  

As this recent dialogue has shown, the PAP will continue to create opportunities and build a society where young people can thrive. After all, they are, as PM Wong said, the authors of the next chapter of our Singapore Story. 

Photo Source: IPS/ SMU via Facebook