6th University Scholars’ Leadership Symposium

BSc International Relations student, Isaac Liu, reflects on the 6th Universities Scholars' Leadership Symposium held in Hong Kong this month
Singapore delegation at the 6th Universities Scholars' Leadership Symposium
Members of the Singapore delegation with Mr Kim Solomon, Secretary-General at the Humanitarian Affairs UK
The recurring theme throughout the symposium was: what can we do as an individual for our society?

As a Singaporean, I am blessed to be born into a system that promotes reliable meritocracy and high social mobility. In the words of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam mentioned in the 45th St. Gallen Symposium, I live in ‘a country that believes in the notion of a social “trampoline” than a safety net’. I have benefitted from this system and enjoyed the opportunity to pursue a higher education degree. As such, I had never been able to fully appreciate the implications and severity of global social problems or even those within my own country.

This was what made me choose to spend my summer at the 6th University Scholars’ Leadership Symposium organized by Humanitarian Affairs. Being a student of politics, and as an individual who believes in paying-it-forward to my community, I wanted to realize and empathize these long-standing issues in society. Of course, this came with an incentive of having a short vacation to Hong Kong!

The recurring theme throughout the symposium was: what can we do as individuals for our society? We often lament that we are not big enough to effect a change – after all, we are merely ordinary people.

Let’s look at the statistics:

1. The Global Infant Mortality Rate currently stands at 49.4

2. 59.5 million people are forcibly displaced from their countries; this number increases during a conflict or persecution to an average of 42,500 people a day!

3. In 2011, 2.2 billion people lived on less than USD$2 a day!

These are notwithstanding organized crimes, drugs and other social ills that plague our society. Knowing these, have our responses changed?

During the five days, I was challenged and provoked not just by words alone, but by images and through simulations. Challenged that society can be a better place through seemingly insignificant actions such as consuming less meat (check out the Green Monday Movement). Provoked by the conditions of refugee camps – we underwent a simulation that showed barely a tenth of what a refugee goes through on a daily basis. My conscience now does not simply allow me to listen about these hard truths and be indifferent. I have found my own source of determination and dedication to keep me serving in my school and my larger community with a greater sense of passion and fervency. Being just an individual, is no longer an acceptable excuse.

Isaac Liu pictured on the right with Mr Kim Solomon

So now, with the same spirit of those who came before me and enlightened me, I challenge YOU to make a difference in YOUR society. Dream big, start small, and go deep. After all, circumstances is what makes you and me different.