Support youth as they dream

Students from Nanyang Technological University giving out a souvenir bag to participants during the Hard Conversations campaign which focused on raising awareness of erectile dysfunction (ED) amongst women.
Students from Nanyang Technological University giving out a souvenir bag to participants during the Hard Conversations campaign which focused on raising awareness of erectile dysfunction (ED) amongst women. PHOTO: NTU

Judging by the flurry of responses online and in the newspapers, many people disagree with Professor Kishore Mahbubani's commentary that there is a deficit of idealism among today's young ("In search of Singaporean idealism"; Feb 20).

I do not think our young are lagging behind in idealism.

There does appear to be a deficit of big dreams and large-scale initiatives, such as those referred to by Prof Mahbubani.

I would attribute this to our policies and "system" that have influenced the mindsets of our people to be generally risk-averse.

I am glad our policymakers are aware of this and are putting in place a series of new measures and a review of schemes to correct this imbalance between innovation and system compliance.

At the Singapore Kindness Movement, I see many random acts of kindness initiated by our young all the time.

Our youngsters show civic consciousness on more serious issues too.

Look at the ground-up movements they have led.

Some of the more visible ones include We Are Majulah, Love Our MacRitchie Forest and People's Movement to Stop Haze.

Recently, a group of Nanyang Technological University students, who dubbed themselves Strangers of the Night, went around and gave 300 goody bags to night-shift workers to show their appreciation.

These youngsters deserve recognition for being proactive in pro-social activities.

They are giving voice, action and life to their idealism.

Idealism is inherent in all of us. It is always seeking to express itself.

While patiently waiting for our education system to be tweaked to fully embrace youthful idealism, let us support our young and encourage them to dream bigger and push the boundaries further.

Perhaps they will fall and fail. But if we believe in them, they will eventually dream big.

Of course, formal education is not the only way for us to learn.

We can also learn beyond the classroom - in our homes, surroundings and through exposure to new situations.

And yes, there is merit to Prof Mahbubani's suggestion that our young buddy up with their counterparts in more challenging environments.

If youthful idealism is in our young, it is incumbent on us to welcome their individual expressions, and nurture and encourage their efforts.

And if some have fallen to the classroom floor, we, who are in leadership, can help to pick them up so that our young may dream again.

William Wan (Dr)
General Secretary
Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Support youth as they dream'. Print Edition | Subscribe