Singapore has come a long way, but can go further

Singapore has indeed come a long way in our 50 years of independence ("Bring fresh meaning to 'independence' post-SG50" by Mr Ooi Mun Kong; Jan 1). Our small size belies our extensive sphere of influence and global recognition.

I was reminded of this on a recent holiday to the United States.

Among the people I met was a woman who still remembered with fondness her working trips to Singapore years ago, and wistfully recalled the good food she had sampled. A man praised Singapore as an economic miracle, while another waxed lyrical about Sentosa.

These comments made me proud to be a Singaporean, as they let me know that even people in far-flung places hold Singapore in high regard.

Singaporeans have also become global travellers. Our passport is trusted in almost every country, and we travel with an assurance that we will be accorded respect and unimpeded entry.

Our esteemed place in the world is the fruit of our pioneer generation's labour, especially that of our political leaders, who steered us through racial mistrust and difficult social and economic conditions.

Our renowned efficiency may have become a victim of its success, imbuing Singaporeans with high expectations, and making us overly critical when things do not go according to plan.

Our education system may be world-class, but we have yet to learn to respect others, especially foreigners, who toil behind the scenes, building our infrastructure, cleaning up after us and keeping Singapore humming.

I hope our sense of entitlement will be tempered with humility and gratitude for those who serve us, and generosity in time and deed for those in challenging situations.

The Future Of Us exhibition has given us a glimpse of how our society can further evolve.

I am heartened to learn of the aspirations of our young to build an inclusive society for all.

As Singaporeans embrace the world, I hope that the world will be able to see Singaporeans as full of the milk of human kindness, as much as it is in awe of our material achievements.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore has come a long way, but can go further'. Print Edition | Subscribe