Singapore: The Last Stop of my State Visit to Southeast Asia
November 21, 2011
The final leg of my journey through Asia was a State visit to Singapore, which is a place of remarkable contrasts existing in enviable harmony. Innovation is also surging forth from such research hubs as Fusionopolis, where great strides in technology, communications and biomedicine have been made by talented visionaries.
I was able to grasp how much the relationship has grown between Canada and Singapore. It begins with the exchange of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge. Our two countries place similar value on higher education. We have forged strong ties between universities, allowing shared knowledge to move freely across borders.
In the interconnected world of the 21st century, where our social, economic and environmental ties are so important, there can be no true education in isolation.
And still, while Singapore pursues excellence and progress with conviction, it remains a place where tradition and culture are respected. Community engagement is achieved through understanding and respect, and I was so pleased that I and the Canadian delegation were able to speak with Singaporeans about their country’s inclusiveness.
I attended an Anglican church service with one of our accompanying delegates Mr. Paul Davidson, President of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. We were struck by the beauty of St. Andrews Cathedral, the site of Christian worship since Sir Stamford Raffles, who chose the site in 1823. There are 14 different services in five different languages with total attendance in the
5 000 to 6 000 range. The presence of various religions in Singapore is one of the tangible signs of its diversity.
Of note, there are waves of green space intertwined with modern architecture, creating a startlingly beautiful dichotomy; it’s easy to see why they call it the “Garden City.” To mark my visit at the Singapore Botanic Garden, they even had a dendrobium orchid named after me. What an honour and privilege.
As we end this journey, what are the takeaways?
In my travels from Malaysia to Vietnam to Singapore, I had the great opportunity of engaging in conversations with so many fascinating people. From the highest levels of protocol to farmers’ rice fields flourishing in the countryside, and through discussions on a myriad of topics, I have learned from my hosts, from the innovators and educators and youth in each country who have joined our delegation. And through this conversation, we are deepening our relationship through increased ties between businesses, government, educational institutions and, most importantly, people.
As I am heading back home with the delegation, I leave Southeast Asia with an even stronger conviction that people-to-people diplomacy is a powerful tool. Collaboration, after all, begins with dialogue.