NUS student representative Michael Zhou's introduction poster at the NextGen Leadership Program. Photo credit: Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute (RMTLI)
1 July 2021
The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said, “Is it not a delight after all to have friends come from afar?” (有朋自远方来,不亦乐乎). I first knew about this saying in a Chinese class in primary school. While I knew what it meant, I didn’t quite understand its true significance. Not until the NextGen Leadership Program.
From 14 to 25 June 2021, I had the privilege to join 30 other young leaders across Asia as the first batch of the NextGen Leadership Program organised by the Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute (RMTLI). When I met my fellow participants for the first time on Zoom, I cannot help but ask: How did this program manage to attract youths from different countries all over Asia, and why did we attend?
You see, we come from different countries. We have different cultural and religious backgrounds. Some of us even share different value systems in life. Amid our differences, what brought us here? I didn’t know the answer on Day One.
So, for the next two weeks, I tried hard to search for that answer. As the Batch Representative, I again directed this question to my fellow batch mates during my speech at the graduation ceremony on 25 June. Same question. But what was different that day was that I had the answer.
Echoing what Confucius said, I believe we – the participants and the Magsaysay Laureates – are pulled together by a common purpose: That is, to search for that Greatness of Spirit within ourselves. Indeed, in the 10-day programme, I have been deeply inspired by the stories of the Magsaysay awardees –
Their selfless devotion to the work they are doing.
The iron in their unwavering spirit.
The inextinguishable light of hope that radiates from their eyes and passion.
And the size of their big hearts.
However, the opportunity to interact and interconnect with these exceptional individuals is what makes this program special. Our Magsaysay mentors have taken the step forward to reach out to the inspired and the willing, connect with them and work with them. Indeed, inspiring others is just a first step. What happens next is to interconnect with one another and build strong bonds in the process. In turn, such interconnectedness and mutual understanding and trust are sources of strength and unity that will help us get through hard times.
But the awardees do not just inspire others and connect with them. They translate their ideas into actions and spur others to do the same by the power of their examples. As some of my batch mates have shared, the purpose for interconnecting with one another is to generate collective responsibility that allows us to overcome the challenges of today and create a better tomorrow.
From the examples of our awardees, we have also learnt not to be daunted by the challenges ahead and doubt our ability to make meaningful change; for in the words of my fellow participant: “A single spark can shed light to a dark room.”
It is a pity that the NextGen journey has been only 10 days and that I cannot meet these wonderful and inspiring people in person. Nevertheless, the program marks not the end but the beginning of my and the participants’ journey as the next generation of aspiring and empowering leaders of Asia. Undoubtedly, the weight on our shoulders is heavy; expectations will be high. But I am encouraged and high-spirited because I will be walking this journey together with my fellow batch mates.
The framework for the NextGen Leadership Program is “Inspire, Interconnect, Ignite Action”. Graduating from the program, I have come to appreciate what these three “Is” mean from the examples of the Magsaysay awardees and interactions with my participants. I look forward to working with my batch mates to design and implement our batch projects and put this framework into practice.
And over to the NUS community, I believe this framework has much resonance and relevance for us, too. As our NUS student leaders embark on their leadership journeys and make meaningful and impactful contributions to the university and society, we must continue to inspire others, interconnect with one another, and ignite action to keep our NUS spirit going.
All images and video courtesy of Ramon Magsaysay Transformative Leadership Institute (RMTLI).
Hear Michael as he delivers his response at the NextGen Leadership Program.