US Elections 2016: Final countdown

2nd US presidential debate: 'Longest 60 seconds' for Singapore student Kenneth Sng

Mr Kenneth Sng, president of the Washington University in St Louis student body, said speaking before the presidential debate "was really quite scary".
Mr Kenneth Sng, president of the Washington University in St Louis student body, said speaking before the presidential debate "was really quite scary".PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Singaporean student Kenneth Sng's remarks at the beginning of the second presidential debate might have been brief, but he said they were "the longest 60 seconds" of his life.

The 24-year-old Public Service Commission scholar had been tasked with welcoming the audience to the debate on behalf of the students of the host university, Washington University in St Louis.

"The 60 seconds felt like the longest 60 seconds of my life. It was really quite scary," Mr Sng told The Straits Times. He is the first international student to be elected as the school's student body president.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, writing on his Facebook page, said he was proud to see the Singaporean making the opening remarks.

Said PM Lee: "Glad that he mentioned 'Singapore, my home' in his remarks. Well done Kenneth. Keep the Singapore flag flying high!"

 

In his speech, Mr Sng spoke about the ideals of democracy, which was born in the United States and spread across the world - including his home Singapore - but which is now under threat in some countries. "Too many democratic governments are being undermined by those who have a much different vision of the world, of their power and of their responsibilities to their citizens. This debate provides a momentous occasion to show that while citizens may disagree fervently on issues, they agree that it is important to stay engaged in the democratic process," he said.

He said he had been concerned that developments like Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis were eroding faith in democracy.

"As I was writing this speech, I was hoping that I could convince the audience that America could send a message of renewed confidence in democracy to the entire world, come Nov 8," he said.

The economics and mathematics major, who went to Jurong Junior College, is the middle child of three boys. His father is a retired car workshop owner, while his mother is a housewife.

The debate prologue that included Mr Sng's remarks was expected to be broadcast only on cable news channel C-Span but ended up aired to millions of households by major networks such as CNN and NBC.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline ''Longest 60 seconds' for S'pore student'. Print Edition | Subscribe