In calling for Singaporeans to be happy for one year to mark our 50th anniversary ("$5 meals, $500 holidays and $50k homes for SG50"; last Saturday), Professor Kishore Mahbubani pointed to an extraordinarily successful first 50 years for our nation.
But a sense of foreboding descended on me when he went on to assert that "the chances of us being equally successful over the next 50 years are practically zero".
If this observation were true, it would mean a psychological defeat for our people before we even embark on the next milestone.
We are a long way from the pinnacle of success, if we are ever going to get there. This is because success is predicated on the goals that we set, and goals can vary depending on the environment and our state of affairs.
It is reasonable to assume that the goals for our next 50 years of nation building will not necessarily overlap with those for the first 50 years. Most, if not all, Singaporeans would agree that, as a nation, we have achieved much economic success so far.
But taking in a wider definition of success, we have to concede that we have much to do to achieve social cohesion, forge a national identity and create a sustainable system of governance.
These are all works in progress and will probably be a continual process with no end.
I would say that greater success awaits us over the next 50 years and beyond, as we try to make headway in achieving nationhood, a civil society and sustainability.
Therefore, I took heart in Mr Ho Kwon Ping's desire to get people thinking about key issues facing Singapore in the next 50 years, such as politics and governance, civil society and identity ("Why this Fellow? Because I always ask why"; last Saturday).
Young Singaporeans would do well to take heed of his advice that the world is theirs to change.
At the nation's centennial celebrations in 2065, we would like to be able to claim that we have equalled, if not exceeded, the success of the first 50 years.
Yeoh Teng Kwong
This article was first published on July 16, 2014.
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