Vivian Balakrishnan: Young people, be idealistic

By Freda Peh

Instead of being too focused on pragmatism, young people should be idealistic, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan emphasised the power of youth at the NTUSU Ministerial Forum 2018. PHOTO: NICHOLAS KOO

“If at the age of 20, you are not idealistic, we are in trouble. If at the age of 20, you are only pragmatic, you will be cynical by the time you are 40,” said Dr Balakrishnan.

He was speaking to an audience of some 400 students at the NTU Students’ Union (NTUSU) Ministerial Forum 2018 on 27 Mar.

“Singapore is not just about pragmatism and economics. Even our founding was based on principles, based on ideals,” he added.

The country is the way it is today because people in the past believed in an ideal that allowed them to live peacefully with each other, even if they were different, said Dr Balakrishnan.

While having ideals, young people should also be prepared that not everyone will accept their perspective.

He said: “The most important trait for us is how we live with each other despite our differences.”

Above all, Dr Balakrishnan emphasised the power of youth, and urged young Singaporeans to dream big.

“The beauty about being young is that you have not yet become cynical, you have not yet become timid, you have not yet become kiasu,” he quipped.

Professor Kwok Kian Woon, Associate Provost for Student Life said that ideals allow students to avoid being passive bystanders and intervene when they see others in a difficult situation.

“Idealism is the sense that the world needs to be changed for the better. One can think through what are the changes needed, and take action,” said Prof Kwok, who was present at the forum.

Grace Tan, 21, a second-year student at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, believes that idealism can better individuals in Singapore, as well as the country.

“I think that we should have dreams for ourselves and our country to better the odds of us staying competitive and flourishing on a global scale,” she said.

Darwin Shia, 24, president of the School of Humanities club, wishes his peers will heed Dr Balakrishnan’s words and chase their goals.

“Be brave to go for your dreams. Set up your business. Go out and see the world. Join clubs and committees to know more people,” he said.