The stories of finalists for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year Award show that Singaporeans are not passive bystanders to the plight of others, whether in Singapore or elsewhere, President Halimah Yacob said at the award ceremony at the Istana yesterday.
"The daily humdrum of our existence, mired in work and other responsibilities, has not deadened our souls, and we find nourishment in helping others," she said.
"The human spirit remains undaunted, and the stories of the nominees are clear examples of how all of us can do something for the betterment of others, so long as we have the heart to do so. We don't have to wait for others to show the way."
She added: "If all of us do our part, no matter how small, we will collectively become an indefatigable force for good."
Madam Halimah also said she was glad that this year's event was held at the Istana, as this is the year the Istana celebrates 150 years.
"Even as we remember our past legacies, we constantly strive to create new memories too. The Istana has been celebrating the achievements of Singaporeans in so many different fields, such as social workers and teachers, and this is a fitting addition to recognise our extraordinary Singaporeans," she said.
Madam Halimah thanked UBS for its continued support of the award, and said she was glad to see more Singapore companies - Singapore Airlines, Millennium Hotels and Resorts Group, Tridente Automobili and OSIM - coming on board to give their support too.
STEPPING UP TO HELP OTHERS
The human spirit remains undaunted and the stories of the nominees are clear examples of how all of us can do something for the betterment of others, so long as we have the heart to do so. We don't have to wait for others to show the way.
PRESIDENT HALIMAH YACOB
Mr Warren Fernandez, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English/Malay/Tamil Media Group and editor of The Straits Times, said in his speech: "We wanted to tell the stories of Singaporeans, living among us, who were doing extraordinary things, to shine a spotlight on their efforts, and in doing so, to uphold the values they embody, as a reflection of the kind of society we would like to see in Singapore."
These values are all the more important today, he added, as we live in troubled and tumultuous times of sweeping technological and economic change, political populism, a growing sense of inequality and alienation in some communities, and other issues like terrorism and climate change.
"In the face of all of this, how do we respond?" asked Mr Fernandez.
He noted that this year's finalists all did it in their own special ways to "lead, care, inspire, serve and dare" - whether it is a teacher challenging his charges not to be intimidated by robots but to master them and go on to clinch top international awards, a generous couple who opened their home to young people who needed love, or brave men who responded instinctively to a disaster abroad, rushing to the scene to help save lives.
Mr Edmund Koh, president of UBS Asia Pacific, congratulated this year's winner, Ms Siti Noor Mastura, as her "mission of promoting understanding and peace among different faiths is a true inspiration to all of us to further strengthen harmony and inclusion in Singapore".
He said UBS planned to continue backing the award for more years to come, and urged other sponsors to give even more.
At the award ceremony yesterday, guests enjoyed a range of local dishes prepared by Chef Hoo Zi Hao of Lavish Dine Catering, who won two golds at the Expogast Culinary World Cup last year.
Mr Nizar Mohamed Shariff, one of the finalists, said of Ms Noor Mastura: "At a time when there are so many instances of terrorism, she helps to break away the stigma of religion and encourage conversations on what religion truly teaches, which is care for the vulnerable."