It is my pleasure to join The Boys’ Brigade as you celebrate your 85th anniversary. This is indeed a special year as it is also our nation’s jubilee celebration. In his 2015 New Year Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that SG50 is a time for us to look back, give thanks for what we have achieved, and look forward to the future with confidence. The word ‘confidence’ is the belief that we can have faith in the future of Singapore, which will be in the hands of today’s youth; the leaders of tomorrow.
This evening is an opportunity for the BB in Singapore to celebrate your role in moulding the future of our nation. The road ahead may appear daunting and unpredictable at times. We will need to prepare our youth by equipping them not only with knowledge, but also with life skills and values. Co-Curricular Activities play a critical role. The BB’s structured approach to leadership development will complement schools to build strength of character in students which is so necessary for our students’ and nation’s continued success.
Finding Inspiration in Our Pioneers
Inspiration can be found within the ranks of the BB in the likes of your pioneers, and their legacy will serve as an example to the next generation. Your founder, Mr James Milner Fraser started the 1st Singapore Company on 12 January 1930. His desire to nurture young lives resulted in many generations of responsible citizens. Among them are distinguished contributors to nation building, such as Lieutenant General (Retired) Winston Choo, the First Chief of Defence Force and Mr Lim Siong Guan, Group President of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation and former Head of the Civil Service. Likewise, two examples of BB Old Boys who showed care for others and took the initiative to impact those around them were Dr Robert Loh, who was the President of the National Council of Social Service from 1992 to 2002; and the late Mr Anthony Yeo, who was the Founder of Counselling and Care Centre, one of Singapore’s earliest centres offering psychological counselling services.
Developing Resilient and Resourceful Leaders of the Future
What qualities do the leaders of the future need and how can we prepare them today? I am pleased that with MOE’s support, BB is looking ahead to answer these questions through the “Co-Creating the BB Future Story” initiative, which has been a year-long project involving conversations with principals, teachers, parents and other stakeholders. The discussions generated a diversity of views and ideas on the kind of experience that the BB should offer to Boys and the values that should be imbued in them to become leaders of the future.
Let me share with you some qualities I hope you will include in your vision for all your Boys. Singapore’s future success depends on the resilience and resourcefulness of our youth. Our pioneers had it in spades to start up a country with no natural resources. But we had spirited people. After 50 years, we are without natural resources, but our people are better educated, and we are evolving a sense of national identity. Our international presence has grown. Still, we are subject to an increasingly volatile, unpredictable environment.
One way to inculcate a ‘never-say-die’ mind-set is through well-designed programmes that place students in scenarios that provide opportunities for resilience and resourcefulness to be honed. An example of this is the BB Blaze, a long-distance adventure-race stretching from Punggol to Choa Chu Kang incorporating elements such as mountain-biking, kayaking, rock-climbing and abseiling, where students have to work as a team to accomplish tasks, solve problems and overcome physical fatigue. The rugged nature of such activities facilitates the development of perseverance that will prepare them well to overcome unforeseen challenges in the future.
To extend the frontiers established by our pioneers, our next generation must be willing to take calculated risks and strive to overcome their limitations. I hear that the BB Seniors Programme is incorporating an introduction to para-sports in 2015, where students will get to dialogue with some of our para-athletes and be inspired through their spirit, abilities and drive to push the boundaries of self and public perception as they fly our flag on the world stage. In keeping with the sporting analogy, continue to develop in your Boys a spirit that never gives up despite the odds, as they receive the torch passed on to them by the previous generation.
Leaders of the future need to be sensitive to the needs of the community and I commend you on your efforts to teach this to our students through your well-established Values in Action experiences, such as the annual BB Share-a-Gift and BB CARES1. On top of the hard work that goes into the implementation of the projects, continue to inculcate student-ownership by allowing students to lead in areas of needs-analysis, project planning and communication with beneficiaries. Facilitate their learning through reflection and celebration of their efforts.
MOE – BB Partnership to Prepare Youth for the Future
We have more support and resources to leverage on compared to previous generations, such as ICT to free up more time and space for greater focus on student learning. In line with this, MOE has supported the development of the BB Online Training Portal that empowers Boys to take ownership of their learning. The portal is a very good start and I encourage BB to build on this and venture to have more such innovative approaches in engaging our youth.
To further provide our youth with more opportunities for leadership development, MOE has partnered with MCCY to launch the National Youth Internship Programme for students who have served in the Uniformed Groups and are awaiting enrolment in post-secondary institutions, or in the midst of their term break2. In BB, I understand that you rotate your interns through a variety of responsibilities ranging from project management, to instructor roles and administrative duties. This is heartening as the interns develop skills even as they help BB run your programmes.
Looking Forward to the Future with Confidence in Our Youth
The BB movement has played a key role in nurturing your Boys to becoming ‘Sure and Stedfast Leaders’3 across society. Our pioneers have led the way in this and I am confident that with the strong leadership of the BB, you will continue to excel at what you do. The road ahead is full of challenges but with every challenge we face, opportunities also arise. I am indeed confident that with all your support the BB will continue to prepare our youth to become leaders of the future which our nation can place their confidence in.
All the very best for an exciting future ahead for the BB.