The following was the script of a speech I made in 2013. I was the guest speaker for the Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society Ltd (SGS Co-op) Bursary Award Ceremony. that year. It was also my first formal experience at public speaking. I still resonate with the core message in the speech, which I am still preaching today: be passionate about learning, find your calling, and be the best for the world.
Speech for SGS Co-op Bursary Award Ceremony 2013
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
I must say I was both excited and a little nervous when I was invited to give this speech to the new bursary award winners.
I am Marcus Mok, and I received the same educational grant from SGS Co-operative in 2001. Now I come back 12 years later to address you. I thank SGS Co-operative for the support I received, and for this privilege to address this wonderful audience.
The purpose of bursary
12 years ago, I just completed my National Service. I just found my first girlfriend. I was about to embark on my university education. That was the metaphorical ‘crossroad’ of my life. My father was then a self-employed electrician, who was retrenched since the economic downturn in 1985. My mother was supporting the family singlehandedly as a nurse. We did not have much savings. Receiving the SGS Co-operative award was a real morale booster for me and a financial relief for my family.
Today, I am a teacher at Anderson Junior College, married to my first girlfriend (my relationship turned out fantastically well). We had two young children.
I want to motivate the younger SGS Co-operative family members, like majority of you sitting here with your parents, that you too can find your success and calling in life.
I don’t believe in self-made success. We all need one another to succeed in life. We are where we are today because someone has helped us along the way.
And bursary awards, like the SGS Co-operative award, definitely help us, especially when we may not come from well-to-do families. It’s different from receiving a scholarship. I was also a MOE Teaching Award Holder. A scholarship required you to sign a bond. If you cannot match their expectations, you forfeit your scholarship and have to pay a heavy fine (mine was 6-figure!). But a bursary is a free gift. No strings attached. It’s saying, “Well done, you have worked hard and earned your reward. Here’s something to cheer you on.” So, well done, students! (applaud the recipients)
Passionate about learning
Living in Singapore, it is very easy to get the impression that we study hard in order to get a good life when we grow up. That getting good grades will get us a good job in the future. Help us secure a future.
Well, yes and no. Yes, because a good education lays the right foundations early for future success. Education is your best passport to a wonderful career and family life in Singapore.
But no, because you can never succeed in the long run if you don’t enjoy what you study. I wrote an article in the SENSE magazine recently. I shared about how we should “pursue and love knowledge for its own sake, to embrace learning and an open mind.” This is the attitude of an explorer, an adventurer. Life is an adventure, and education is a big part of it. It is that sense of curiosity and wonder each time we approach a new subject, a new topic, a new chapter. We thirst for new knowledge like Haagen Dazs ice cream. Have you ever notice that when you eat Haagen Dazs, the more you eat it, the more you want? Love for knowledge and learning is the same. Enjoy what you learn, and the results will follow.
Find your calling
But this may sound very idealistic to some of you. True, there’s bound to be subjects you don’t like, topics that you are just don’t enjoy.
And that’s okay (I can hear some parents groaning when I said that). But it’s true, because we are all wired differently. And the way we are, our personality, interests and abilities, are really an expression of what we are called to do in life. For that, you need to know your calling in life.
What is ‘calling’? We define calling in different ways. Some call it life purpose, mission in life, etc. I would like to share a quote with you by Frederick Buechner , a writer. He said that your calling is “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” In other words, it is doing what you love and are good at when you are at your best self, that other people need the most.
Some of you are good with numbers, and you love to make things work and solve problems. That may be your calling. Engineering, physics may be good for you.
Some of you love working with people, bringing joy to their lives. Nursing, counseling and – yes, teaching! – may be the path for you.
Some of you are artistic and loves to design things of beauty. That might be your calling.
Some of you are good with language, and knows how to use the beauty and power of words to touch lives. Literature and journalism may be for you.
Some of you have ideas that will create value for society. Business and marketing may be for you.
Now your calling is more than your job – your job is an expression of your calling.
My personal calling is to help others find meaning in life, and to realize their truest potential. Being a teacher is the best expression of that calling in my life at this point of time. Maybe 5, 10 years down the road, I may switch and become a counselor, a life coach, or a writer. It doesn’t matter, because the job may change; the calling is the same. And as long as I am living out my calling, I will strive to learn all I can to be the best that I can.
With this attitude, we can excel in everything we do. Not for ourselves, but for those that we love, people that matter to us – our parents, our families, our teachers, our colleagues and clients and patients and students. Because this is where our deepest gladness and the world’s deepest hunger meet.
Conclusion: Be the Best FOR the World
This is especially important for those choosing which course to take, or which educational path, e.g. whether to go university, or poly, or ITE. There is no easy answer, so you first have to know yourself. First and foremost, make it your priority to find your calling in life. Discuss with your parents, your teachers, your friends. Don’t shut out the possibilities; explore and discover.
Then, let that calling lead you to an educational path, a course, that can brings out the best in you. Don’t choose a course based on what job you think it can land you in, how much money you can make out of it. But choose a course that matches your calling, that helps you develop the skills and gifts that you are really proud to be called your own.
And don’t strive to be the best IN the world (it’s impossible, there can only be one best) – but be the Best FOR the World.
I wish you the very best, be you in primary school, secondary school, junior college, ITE and university. Don’t just DO your best; BE the best. And not just best IN in the world, but Best FOR the world.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.