Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the 10th Singapore Silent Heroes Awards Dinner on 28 September 2023.
My Parliamentary Colleague Ms Gan Siow Huang,
President of Civilian Association Singapore Mr Sellvem,
Chairperson of the Singapore Silent Heroes Awards Ms Priscilla Gan,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to join all of you this evening for this year’s Silent Heroes Awards Dinner.
I attended this event two years ago in 2021. It was a very different environment then, because that was the dark days of COVID. It was more muted, we had very few tables. And within each table, there was a restricted number of seats, everyone one metre apart, no intermingling between tables. I bet you have all forgotten those rules. It felt like a bad dream, but still, the event proceeded and we were able to recognise the silent heroes that year. And I am very happy to come back again two years later. Now in a very different environment, COVID restrictions are over. This year is also extra special because it is the 10th anniversary of the Singapore Silent Heroes Awards.
You have of course come a long way over the last decade.
What started out as a very simple idea by the Civilian Association Singapore – a ground up idea – has grown stronger each year. You wanted to recognise the silent heroes in our society and I think it is a very appropriate tagline – 'Silent Heroes’. These are the people who go the extra mile, who want to do good for the community and for others, but do so in their own quiet way, not expecting any recognition or reward, but because it is simply the right thing to do.
With that initial first event that you did, year by year, you have grown larger and now you have established yourself as an annual fixture in Singapore.
About 800 individuals have been nominated as Silent Heroes and close to 50 awards have been given out. And this year, more than 100 nominations were received. So well done to all of you!
Of course, the impact and value of the awards go far beyond the numbers.
Because through the awards, we shine a light on the extraordinary acts undertaken by ordinary members of our society.
We pay tribute to their sometimes overlooked sacrifices.
And we inspire all of us to be better versions of ourselves.
Nowadays when you read the news, or in particular, when you get too caught up by social media, it is very easy to be overwhelmed by negativity. Or sometimes, by the toxic culture that surrounds us. But the silent heroes that we meet and see, remind us that we can all be better. They appeal to the better angels of our nature and bring out the best in all of us. So once again, let me give a very big shout-out to the entire team that made Singapore Silent Heroes possible. First of all, none other than Mr Sellvem himself. I am told that he is the ‘Silent Hero’ behind the ‘Silent Heroes’. Of course, the entire team at the Civilians Association Singapore, all your many volunteers, stakeholders, partners, sponsors, and everyone who has contributed to making these awards a success year after year. Thank you very much and congratulations on reaching this milestone!
I would also like to pay tribute to all the finalists and award recipients tonight.
We just saw the video just now of the five main awardees. They were drawn from a group of 26 finalists, whose stories are all very inspiring.
And they come from diverse backgrounds.
But they are all united in their conviction to show care and concern for others, and they certainly have left an indelible impact on the lives of those around them.
The five award recipients just now include Mr Kenneth Mah – who has been doing amazing work through the Rare Disorders Society of Singapore.
Mr Raymond Anthony Fernando – who has been a tireless champion for mental health and elderly issues.
Ms Mary Low – who not only overcame her own disability, but continues to give back to others, and support other people with disabilities.
Mr Toh You Xin – who is a youth volunteer, doing so much to support the Deaf community in Singapore.
Mr Shafiqul Islam – for his excellent work in engaging and supporting our migrant workers.
Let us give all of them another big round of applause.
Later this evening, we will be giving out for the first time, 19 student awards. They are our young silent heroes. I am glad that we are recognising them because it is never too early to do good. And we want to instil these values at a young age.
To all of you – our finalists and nominees, and award recipients.
Thank you for dedicating your lives to the service of others.
Your stories show that, even small acts of kindness can have a big difference to the people around us.
And that no matter who we are, all of us can give back to the community and do our part in our own ways. So, congratulations and thank you to every one of you.
Of course, there are indeed many other shining examples of silent heroes everywhere in Singapore, each one quietly doing his or her part to help our fellow citizens.
All of these many examples embody the spirit of fellowship and mutual support that is so crucial in taking our nation forward.
Singapore has indeed come a long way in our nation-building journey. Today, we are more affluent than before, we have more resources to deal with our issues and challenges, and yet at the same time, we know we are not perfect. We still have many growing social needs, and as part of the ongoing Forward Singapore exercise, the Government is reviewing what more we can do through policies to better support the more vulnerable amongst us.
We want to uplift the disadvantaged, help our families thrive, and take better care of our seniors, amongst others.
At the same time, we hope to see fellow Singaporeans doing their part, stepping up and contributing as well.
Because there is a difference when help is extended by the community – it is more personal, it is delivered with a human touch, and it is better tailored to every individual’s circumstances.
Strong mutual support also helps nurture deeper bonds amongst us and bring us closer as a people.
That is how all of us in Singapore have responded to challenges and crises throughout our history and emerged stronger from them.
We saw this clearly in the last three years when we had to tackle COVID-19 together, where we pulled together as one people, supported one another, and became more united as a country.
This year, we mark the centenary of the birth of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. If he were around, he would have been 100 years-old and in fact, two weeks ago was his birthday.
And I am reminded of something Mr Lee said in the 60s, when Singapore faced tremendous challenges.
He said, and I quote, “A nation is great not by its size alone. It is the will, the cohesion, the stamina, the discipline of its people, and the quality of its leaders which ensure it an honourable place in history.”
So, indeed it is the collective will, spirit, stamina, discipline of all of us in Singapore that shape our shared future.
And I believe and I am confident if we all strive to be silent heroes in our own ways, we can deepen the reservoir of kinship and trust amongst us and keep our society cohesive and strong. We can build a more caring, gracious and inclusive society and keep the Singapore story going for many more years to come.
Thank you very much.
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