President Halimah inspires young girls at leadership session

President Halimah Yacob speaking to students from Canossa Convent Primary School, St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School and St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School on April 4, 2018.
President Halimah Yacob speaking to students from Canossa Convent Primary School, St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School and St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School on April 4, 2018.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Becoming President has meant having to give up little pleasures such as having her favourite bowl of ice kachang, just the way she likes it, from a familiar vendor at a hawker centre.

That was President Halimah Yacob's response to a young student leader from Saint Anthony's Canossian Primary School, who asked Singapore's first female president how her life has changed since becoming president and whether she misses the life she led before.

"That's one of the changes I've had to deal with, but these are small sacrifices. With responsibility come certain constraints that I have to live with," she added with a smile.

This was one of the many questions fielded by Madam Halimah at a question-and-answer session at St Anthony's Canossian Primary School on Wednesday afternoon (April 4).

Held as part of the official opening of the inaugural Canossian Girls' Leadership Symposium, the session lasted about 45 minutes, with many students vying for their questions to be answered by the President.

The three-day symposium, which started on Wednesday, brings together about 300 student leaders from the Canossian group of schools and other schools within the E4 and E5 clusters to learn how girls can make a difference as young leaders.

The eager students asked questions ranging from the President's early life as a student to her vision for Singapore's next 50 years.

"I certainly hope I won't be the first and only female president," said Madam Halimah with a laugh.

During her opening address, the President highlighted a sense of service as one of the key qualities essential to leaders.

"Leadership is not about position or wealth, but about helping others for the betterment of society," she emphasised. She also encouraged the girls to use soft skills, such as empathy, to reach out to others on the ground.

The young participants said the session inspired them.

Hannah Tan, 11, said: "I think that anybody can be a leader, even if you're young. You just need to start small."