Forum: Being gracious, regardless of whether one is Singaporean

Singa the Lion figurines at Raffles City Singapore on July 31, 2019.
Singa the Lion figurines at Raffles City Singapore on July 31, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

I thank Ms Agnes Sng Hwee Lee for acknowledging the efforts of the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) in cultivating kindness and graciousness in Singapore (Many more living in Singapore than just Singaporeans, Oct 8).

According to our Graciousness Survey (Index), we have moved the needle towards more positive behaviour from the low 50s (in 2013) to the 70s (in 2019). That behavioural change is significant.

There may be some valid reasons for distinguishing between Singaporeans and "people living in Singapore".

I am, however, not persuaded that the latter is less impacted than the former by our sustained effort in nudging behavioural change.

Singaporeans are generally hard-working, law-abiding, kind and gracious. However, we can certainly improve on some behaviours, several of which were cited by Professor Tommy Koh.

Our Graciousness Survey 2019 indicates an improvement in overall sentiment about graciousness, with distinct improvements in neighbourliness and social integration. This has been a positive trend in the last few years.

The findings, in fact, show that "people living in Singapore" are more welcoming to new people and willing to interact with locals.

In my own experience on the MRT, I am constantly offered a seat by "people living in Singapore" who are apparently not "Singaporeans".

I believe we have come a long way in changing perceptions and behaviours about graciousness, and there is a shifting narrative where Singaporeans young and old are starting to take action to do their part for a more caring and civic-minded society (Just a gentle nudge to show kindness, Oct 14).

I agree with Prof Koh that we can be better. SKM's Be Greater campaign seeks to underline that true greatness is about character and a better version of ourselves beyond success, wealth and power.

True greatness is not about what we achieve, but the kind people we strive to be - one that we can take pride in - whether Singaporean or "people living in Singapore".

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'Being gracious, regardless of whether one is Singaporean'. Print Edition | Subscribe