.. But one story in particular caught my eye and it is of a Vietnamese girl called Lê Hà Thanh Mai who is here today.
She came to Singapore when she was 15 years old, did not speak English, on a scholarship, she went to school, she had difficulty adjusting because of language but also because school was taught differently here and in Việt Nam.
But she went on to Temasek JC, things improved.
Her classmates welcomed her, helped her to integrate.
By the time she went to SMU, she was so localised that if you did not know her name, you would not know she came from somewhere else.
So her fellow students elected to become the international student secretary of the SMU Students Association and her job was to lead efforts to encourage other international students to integrate with the locals and to learn more about one another’s cultures.
So here she is, this is not quite our culture but nevertheless here is Lê Hà Thanh Mai in the middle jumping highest of all.
So I read you what she wrote in reflection of her experience here.
“I feel as much as a Singaporeans as I am a Vietnamese.
I have come to love the hawker food, the Singapore River that I jogged along, the fireworks every National Day on the magnificent background of Singapore skyline, the shopping malls a few streets down the road, the cinemas where I spent many nights watching movies, the schools I attend and most importantly, the friendships I have made”.
The friendships I have made.
So it is ultimately up to us how big-hearted how we want to be.
We may be a small island, we cannot be small-minded.
We cannot just be a prosperous and successful country.
We have also got to be a caring, a generous, a decent people; people who are gracious and warm towards one another as well as towards others and that is the best way to ensure that tomorrow Singapore will have a bigger heart.”
LEE HSIEN LOONG (*)
(*) Extract from Singapore National Day Rally speech 26 August 2012