2020 Virtual President's Scholarship Award Ceremony: Speech by President Halimah Yacob

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service

Chairman and Members of the Public Service Commission

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon.

1. The President’s Scholarship is awarded annually to exceptional young Singaporeans who pledge to serve Singapore through the Public Service. Besides achieving excellence in academic and cocurricular activities, they have demonstrated a strong ethos for public service, outstanding leadership qualities, and a steadfast drive to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

2. This year, I am happy to confer the President’s Scholarship on Alyssa Marie Loo Li Ann.

3. Alyssa is passionate about serving the community and envisages a kind and inclusive Singapore that demonstrates compassion for the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. As part of the Youth Corps Leaders Programme in 2019, Alyssa volunteered with Beyond Social Services to visit residents in rental flats to learn their stories and strengthen their sense of belonging to the community. Youth Corp Services proudly shared that Alyssa’s interpersonal skills and wide-ranging talents made her a treasured team member, while the residents were drawn to her warm personality and authenticity and opened up to her willingly. This experience has helped her become an empathetic and compassionate individual, and strengthened her resolve to serve disadvantaged children, youths and families. Today, Alyssa continues to serve children and youths under SG Exams, an online platform for the local student community to share resources, collaborate and volunteer in community service.

4. Alyssa will pursue her studies in Linguistics at Brown University and will serve in the Public Service upon her graduation.

5. Alyssa, congratulations on being awarded the President’s Scholarship. I would also like to congratulate your family, friends, principals and teachers, for their part in shaping your character, values and passion for service.

6. The start of your journey in public service comes at a critical point in modern history. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the global economy and every aspect of our lives. As a small and open economy, Singapore’s economic outlook depends heavily on the global environment. We must stay nimble as we navigate the new economic landscape and adjust to new ways of living and working. Businesses and workers need to adapt, transform and seize opportunities to maintain their relevance and competitiveness. Amidst these challenges, Singapore must tend to our social fabric, as we can only emerge from this crisis and continue our progress as a nation if we stay united.

7. A strong and effective public service is also essential for seeing Singapore through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Service values of integrity, service and excellence form the foundation of trust that Singaporeans have in the government’s ability to execute the policies, plans and initiatives. Strengthening this foundation is especially critical as it is no longer business as usual. We have a population that is more discerning, with strong views on what is in their best interests and wants to be more engaged in decisions affecting them. They also have a strong sense of fairness and equality and want these values reflected more clearly in whatever we do. In the years to come, there will be new paths to forge and difficult decisions to make. This is a challenge for this generation of Singaporeans – a trial of our fortitude and a test of our resilience. Economically, COVID-19 has changed the environment around us drastically, challenging us to re-examine some of our time tested ideas and strategies. We need civil servants who can not only think critically but who also have unorthodox ideas or unique solutions in a situation where the path to growth is not so clear. We also need agile and bold leaders with both the ability and the heart to unite Singaporeans and see us through these tumultuous times.

8. Alyssa, as a recipient of the President’s Scholarship, you bear a special responsibility to lead and inspire fellow Singaporeans to join you in tackling these challenges and driving the nation forward. I enjoyed getting to know you better earlier, and am glad to learn that you are humble, curious and down to earth. Your humility and desire to always learn from others are admirable traits that will stand you in good stead for taking on the responsibilities of a President’s Scholar. As you embark on the next phase of your journey, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, open yourself to new experiences and seize every opportunity to develop the skills and expertise Singapore will need for the future.

9. During your overseas studies, do take the opportunity to broaden your horizons, expand your networks and develop fresh perspectives to better serve the needs of Singaporeans. At the same time, I hope that you remain connected to Singapore, such as through the Youth Corps Leaders Programme. Keep volunteering, encouraging and inspiring your peers to do the same. In doing so, you will give yourself an anchor in the communities you will return to serve.

10. Alyssa, I am confident that you will continue to do Singapore proud, and uphold the values of our Public Service - Integrity, Service and Excellence. Embrace this honor and responsibility. Devote yourself to go the extra mile in serving the nation and our people. May you also inspire more young Singaporeans to join you in the pursuit of excellence to build the Singapore you see in your heart.

11. I wish you success in your journey ahead, and look forward to you serving our country with passion as a public officer.

Thank you.