Singapore student Kenneth Sng made history today when he did what most of us may not have been given the chance to: speak at the US presidential debate before candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump jousted it out for bragging rights.
Sng’s appearance is the first in all fronts – the first international student who is president of the Washington University student union, and a rare appearance by a Singapore student commenting at the second round of the US presidential debate.
The 24-year-old is also a Public Service Commission (PSC) scholar, thus possibly making a lot of up-and-coming civil servants shudder at their capabilities.
Firsts aside, Sng made remarks of the importance American politics has in its democratic system to “spread like wildfire to much of the world”, including to Singapore.
“Too many democratic governments are being undermined by those who have a much different vision of the world… this debate provides a momentous occasion to show that while citizens may disagree fervently on issues, they agree that it is important to stay engaged in the democratic process,” Sng said.
But to many Singapore youth, Sng’s comments may run deeper than imagined. A survey this year by current affairs literacy campaign Join The Current found out that nearly 80% of Singapore teens aged 10 to 14 “rarely or never read, watch or listen to the news”.
Another online straw poll among 50 university undergraduates held by NUS publication Campus Eye found out that despite nearly all respondents saying keeping up with current affairs is important, only a third of such respondents actually do so – mainly attributing it to a lack of time due to other pressing commitments.
However, there has been a change in the tide: despite recent comments by academic Kishore Mahbubani, volunteerism rates are increasing and new social campaigns such as bringing back dialect usage are engineering a new wave of activism and cause-supporting among youth today.
“Our youths’ interests span a spectrum indeed – and more than that, they are stepping up and putting their beliefs into action,” remarked blogger Andrew Loh in the new sea of change.
Watch Kenneth Sng’s comments at the US presidential debate below (or click here if you can’t view it):