22 July 2013
22 July 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen
This is an occasion to remember – for you, the graduating students, your parents and all those close to you. We celebrate your achievements today. It is an honour to join you this afternoon.
As the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor have mentioned, you are alumni of the fastest rising university in the United Kingdom which was named as the Sunday Times University of the Year 2012/2013. Exeter is now firmly in the ranks of the Top Ten universities in the United Kingdom and is now a member of the Russell Group of leading research universities. Commenting on the University, the Guardian newspaper noted, “One of the lesser-known recipes for happiness is to live in a place where other people choose to go on holiday…”
You will cherish memories of the friendships you have made, the informal learning that took place outside the classroom and the experiences which helped to shape your view of the world.
My own institution, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has had excellent ties with Exeter. Sir Steve Smith, the Vice-Chancellor, has been an external examiner, and is a member on our Board of Governors. As I was a newcomer to university administration, he served as a mentor and fount of wisdom in dealing with the challenges of managing faculty and building an institution which is a combination of a professional school of international affairs and a think tank. We have also had Exeter faculty as visiting professors. One of my colleagues, Ustaz Mohamad Ali was conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Exeter this year.
You will live in a world in which such collaborative efforts will increase. Over the next two decades, East Asian growth will outstrip that of the United States and Europe. Trans-Pacific trade and investments are already significantly higher than Trans-Atlantic commerce. As China continues to grow at 7-8 per cent annually and India enjoys significant economic growth with more open markets, Southeast Asia will benefit from the expansion of intra-Asian trade, investment and tourism. The conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will create the largest cross-regional trade and investment arrangement and the largest regional trading bloc.
With the Eurozone crisis, you would do well to think outside the box and look for opportunities beyond Europe. My advice is “Go East, young Exeter woman!” And for those of you who come from East Asia, I would advise “Return home,” and I know this advice will please your parents.
You will be more mobile in your career choices, changing employers and careers over the next fifty years, especially as many of you will live to a hundred with breakthroughs in health care, diet and medical technology.
While I was in the Foreign Service for the first twenty years after graduation, the next two decades were spent running Singapore’s board of trade, a major port, a shipyard, the equivalent of the Peace Corps or VSO and a graduate school of international affairs which trained students for professional careers and functioned as a policy-oriented think tank.
At times, I multi-tasked, wondering whether I was inflicting unnecessary pain on myself. Colleagues were sometimes flustered by the unexpected question or unconventional suggestion because of the differences in background and exposure.
In the companies I was involved with, I would raise questions related to political and societal risks. In the Foreign Service and in the graduate school of international affairs, I would stress the importance of financial discipline. The point is, each of these moves entailed some risk, resulted in very different challenges and led to some unexpected honours such as today’s honorary degree. If you choose this path, your life will be more rewarding than if you stuck to a narrow well-defined course.
This requires the support of a close network of family and friends. In my case, I was fortunate to have an understanding and supportive wife and family.
Finally, congratulations on your achievement. May the future bring you the rewards in life in areas that really matter!
Last updated on 07/05/2019