SINGAPORE - Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob has been conferred a top honour by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in recognition of her contributions to Singapore and the community.
Madam Halimah, 61, received the Doctor of Laws degree on Thursday (July 7) at a commencement ceremony at her alma mater.
This puts her in the company of such luminaries as former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and former Chief Justices Yong Pung How and Chan Sek Keong.
Calling the award "a great motivator", Madam Halimah, who entered politics in 2001 as MP for Jurong GRC, said she intends to do more to promote the causes she has long championed, such as workers' welfare, women's issues, and family and ageing issues.
At an interview last week, she said the adversity she faced early in life had spurred her on and motivated her.
She had lost her father at the young age of eight years old, and her mother struggled to put food on the table. To support herself and her four siblings, she would help her mother prepare Malay food for sale before school every day.
But Madam Halimah - Singapore's first woman Speaker of Parliament - never viewed these challenges negatively.
"A hurdle or a difficulty forces me to think more creatively about how to get around it, to look at other options, alternatives, device new strategies, new methods," she said.
She went on to study law at NUS on a bursary from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, and later spent 30 years in the labour movement advocating for workers, women and minority groups.
On being recognised for her contributions, Madam Halimah said she was honoured and thankful.
But she added that "there will be a lot of work to do", saying she hoped to be able to do more for these causes close to her heart.
Madam Halimah also urged new graduates to focus not just on their own careers, but to also think about how they can give back to society.
"Human beings have the innate capacity to do good, and they should use their university education to sharpen that goodness that they have to contribute back to society," she said, adding that she herself had benefited from the education system and the contributions of others before her.
"That's really important, because... we want to be contributing towards the development of a good society."