Celebrities share unique Total Defence anecdotes

Self-confessed "crazy person" Najip Ali and former swimming sensation Joscelin Yeo won over about 180 students and teachers on Tuesday with their unique and personal takes on Total Defence.

Reflecting on psychological defence - one of Total Defence's five pillars, 48-year-old celebrity Najip Ali prefaced his speech by telling the crowd: "I'm not here to 'psycho' you. I'm here just to tell you to be yourself."

Recounting the early days of his entertainment career when he stood out for being loud and multilingual, he stressed the importance of carving out one's own identity.

"I became who I wanted to be. I was comfortable with being orang gila," he said, using the Malay expression for crazy person.

Mr Najip Ali, the creative director of production company Dua M, then urged the crowd to find their own voice and be more curious about one another.

"What is your story as a Singaporean? I hope all your stories will glue us together even more and instill more pride, more passion and love for our little red dot."

Ms Yeo shocked the crowd by revealing that she almost quit swimming at the age of 12, after being criticised in the media for not winning any gold at the 1991 South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Manila.

"I had two silvers and three bronzes, and thought I had performed. But apparently it wasn't good enough," said the 34-year-old who was eventually persuaded by her coach to continue with the sport. She went on to bag 40 SEA Games golds in her 17-year competitive career.

"It made me emotionally and mentally stronger," recalled the former Nominated MP. "You have to go through challenges to build up resilience."

The two were speaking at a Total Defence dialogue session organised by the Singapore Discovery Centre and supported by the Ministry of Education's Character and Citizenship Education Branch and POSB.

They were part of a five-person panel, which also included former chief defence scientist and adviser to the National Research Foundation in the Prime Minister's Office, Professor Lui Pao Chuen, managing director and head of POSB Derrick Goh, and the National Council of Social Service's director of sector manpower, Ms Angela Yak.

Held at the Marina Bay Financial Centre, the three-hour session also featured a question and answer segment moderated by Straits Times Schools editor Serene Goh.

Students, such as 16-year-old Nicholas Lee from Hwa Chong Institution, said the anecdotes offered a refreshing departure from the usual Total Defence lessons in textbooks and advertisements.

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