SINGAPORE - The National Day Parade (NDP) is more than "just a marvellous show", said President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the end of the nation's 52nd birthday bash on Wednesday (Aug 9).
"It is an expression of the Singapore spirit, and the way we must continue to strive for progress, because the work never ends," said Dr Tan, adding that the nation faces many challenges such as terrorism and economic issues.
"But if we work together... we can overcome all of these challenges," he stressed, addressing the media after the parade. "Each milestone is just a step on our forward progress."
This year marks the last that Dr Tan, 77, attended the parade as its reviewing officer, with the next Presidential Election due to be held in September.
The following Presidential Election will be the nation's first reserved election - for Malay candidates - following changes to the Elected Presidency scheme.
As Singapore's seventh president, Dr Tan presided over his first parade in 2012, having assumed office in September of the previous year.
At the end of the parade at The Float@Marina Bay on Wednesday, attended by about 25,000 people, Dr Tan spent "a little more time than usual thanking all the participants".
With a wide smile on his face, he was seen greeting other enthusiastic faces while moving around the stage, before making a final wave to the audience.
He told reporters afterwards that he had been "extremely touched by their good wishes and their affection", which were heartwarming.
He said as well that every parade he has attended was special and he is grateful for the chance to serve the nation.
He said that "the NDP is an occasion for Singaporeans to come together to celebrate our achievements, our independence, our progress. It's a day of pride for all Singaporeans."
"Working as one nation together, we have shown how we can build a harmonious, cohesive society, everybody pitching in and looking out for each other - this reflects the spirit which is shown in the parade," he added.
The parade this year was also important as it commemorates 50 years of National Service (NS), said Dr Tan.
"NSmen have contributed tremendously to Singapore. Without their commitment, their sacrifices, and the support of their families, we will not be able to defend ourselves and Singapore will not be where we are today," he said.
"I think it's appropriate that we take this occasion to thank all our NSmen... and their commitment to Singapore."
Dr Tan took the chance to commend participants as well, with the oldest aged 81 and the youngest, four.
"It shows the Singapore spirit, that we can come together... (and) express togetherness as Singaporeans - that we share each others' destinies," he said.
Spectators at the parade on Wednesday told The Straits Times they were thankful for Dr Tan's service as head of state.
Retiree Mr Soh Cheow Hwee, 62, said Dr Tan has done "a great job for the nation".
Deputy director of Temasek Laboratories Yeo Siew Yam, 53, said: "I'm thankful for his time as a President, and also want to say thanks to Mrs Mary Tan for all the support she's given to her husband."
"It is sad that this is his last time (at the parade), but I hope to see him contributing to Singapore in other ways in the future. I wish Dr Tony Tan all the best after his presidency," he said.
Ms Lynn Yeow-De Vito, 37, who is director of a public relations agency, also said: "He has done his best for our nation, like the other presidents before him, and I think it's always good to have fresh leadership, after he has completed his term."