Choosing The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year is a consultative exercise. Members of the public have been nominating Singaporean individuals or groups to be considered for the award. A judging panel has selected the 10 finalists. Public voting will begin today and end on Jan 14 at 6pm. Judges will use the results as reference when taking their final decision.
The nominations reflect the diversity of public opinion on who has done something so outstanding as to deserve the award. While judges take the final decision, their choice will be guided by the overall public mood apparent in the nominations. The public-voting component and the final decision strike a fine balance that should represent a social consensus on the winner.
What is clear this year is the diversity of the nominees. One embodies the sheer heroism of striving against the odds that turns survival into nothing less than the collective victory of the human spirit. Two friends who helped to put out a taxi fire in an expressway tunnel showed the tenacity of the pubic spirit in the face of personal danger. One person has the mission of saving lives by equipping people with practical self-defence skills. An 18-year-old saves the lives of strangers by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on people in the vicinity who need help. A 15-year-old skydiver has made her mark already in a sport that is hardly for the faint-hearted. A graphic novelist, an orchestra conductor and a film-maker represent the world of the arts and music through their achievements. A doctor has taken the initiative in providing support and affordable healthcare for migrant workers. A lawyer and his team of volunteers have lent a hand to schools in Punjab, India, for the past 14 years.
While the final choice will focus on the winner, the range of achievements represented by the nominees symbolises a rainbow whose charm derives from all the colours mesmerising the eyes together. They all are winners. The award should play a role in raising awareness of diversity in national self-perceptions. In the collective spirit represented by the nominees for the award, Singaporeans must look more closely at one another to recognise excellence in its myriad forms. Academic ability, like success in fields such as wealth, should not be discounted. Singaporeans have not come so far by forgetting what it takes to secure the intellectual and economic foundations of society. However, no society can hope to move towards self-fulfilment if it fails to appreciate the diversity of talent and aspirations in its midst. Singapore is a small country, but there are many whose big hearts, unwavering dedication to others and pursuit of distinction in times good and bad make Singapore a great country to live in.