Congratulations Optimistic Tharman elected President of Singapore

"Creating bases for optimism has to be our central task everywhere in the world and through global collaboration.  We must create bases for optimism to see ourselves through this long storm and to emerge intact; emerge a better place, and it can be done."

by Victor Perton, Author of "Optimism: The How and Why"

Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been elected President of Singapore.  On his election, Tharman said, "

"I believe the vote for me and what I stood for is a vote of confidence in Singapore itself, a vote of optimism in how we can progress together and support each other as Singaporeans.
"It can, and must, be a future of deeper respect for each other, regardless of backgrounds and educational achievements. A future of closer interactions between our different faiths and cultures, so that we deepen our multicultural identity. A future of solidarity even as we hold to diverse views, which is natural in our democracy. A future where every generation derives confidence and benefit from our national reserves and feels fortunate that we are Singaporeans. A future where Singapore continues to be a partner of choice internationally and is able to project its voice of reason in an endangered world.

"It will be my duty to use the roles and responsibilities of the President to help us advance this future of optimism and solidarity."

I first met Tharman Shanmugaratnam during the Australian G20 Presidency.  I admired him instantly for his thoughtfulness and wisdom. 

This speech he gave at the Singapore Management University caught my attention.


Tharman opened by expressing his concerns at the loss of optimism:

"We have entered an era without precedent, certainly not in living memory, and it has led to a loss of optimism almost across the world.

"There are few exceptions; there are still some very optimistic societies in Asia, but by and large, it has led to a loss of optimism globally.

"There's data for this in the advanced world. Pew Research surveys of optimism in some 19 advanced countries, more advanced countries including Singapore, and the conclusions from this year's survey done in March were very troubling across the advanced world. Barely 27% of parents expect their children to have a better future than them. Barely 27%!

"That's a dramatic change from the advanced world of the 1960s. Even the 1990s is a dramatic change in some countries. In fact, in Japan, only 12% of parents expect their children to do better than them. In France, it is 17%. Sweden is at the higher end, with almost half of parents, about 47%, and Singapore was the only country amongst the 19 surveyed where more than 50%, about 56% of parents expected their children to do better than them. But across the world, that's a dampening of optimism in the future. And these are not due to temporary shocks or events. They're not just due to bad events and bad actors. These are structural insecurities that are going to be with us for many years to come. This is not just a perfect storm, a conjuncture of bad events. It is a perfect long storm with structural fragilities that we must live with for many years. And our central task must be to create bases for optimism in a world beset by crises and insecurities.

"Creating bases for optimism has to be our central task everywhere in the world and through global collaboration.  We must create bases for optimism to see ourselves through this long storm and to emerge intact; emerge a better place, and it can be done."

"Still, it requires first recognizing the realities, recognizing the gravity of the situation, and staring the problems in the face. At the same time, it requires more radical ambition for the future, more radical ambition in innovation and collaboration. We have to innovate and collaborate our way out of this storm. And it also requires recognizing that our interests as citizens, wherever we are, are bound up with each other, and our interests as nations are bound up with the interests of other nations and with the good of humanity more than ever before..."

He continued:

"We've entered a more polarised world, faced with energy and food scarcity, slower growth, higher inflation, more unstable, and less optimistic.

"That's the perfect long storm we are in. But, if there's a silver lining, it is that these extreme events that we've seen, not just conflicts but the droughts, the floods, the heat waves, remarkable extreme events. Some of you may have seen the images of people walking on the bed of the Yangtze River. In Pakistan, one-third of the country was submerged literally and almost half of their crops were destroyed.

"These extreme events all over the world, from wildfires in California to floods in Pakistan, are finally shifting the political climate and public consciousness so that people realize that what's happening is not just to do with a distant event 50 or a hundred years from now. It's not just our grandchildren's generation; it is happening now.

"The tipping points are being reached, and the consequences are now accelerating.  So we must create bases for optimism to see us through this storm and emerge fitter and stronger. To arrest the fundamental causes of this perfect long storm, we have to innovate and collaborate our way through and understand the bases for optimism that already exist..."

Among the tipping points, Tharman referred to water. saying, "Climate itself has its own vicious loop, climate, water, and biodiversity. The water crisis and the loss of water from the soils and forests are now denuding their ability to store carbon, for instance, reinforcing the climate crisis. The warming of the atmosphere is leading to the spread of infectious diseases and making pandemics even more likely. The combination of climate, extremities, droughts, floods and global warming is feeding into a food crisis and feeding into conflicts."

He concluded:

"We have to develop bases for optimism in a world that is troubled, not just because of bad actors and bad events, but because we are entering an era of insecurity. We can develop these bases for optimism globally, particularly by strengthening multilateralism in practical ways, and in our own societies develop strengthening our social compacts, which in Singapore we are determined to do refreshing existing ways of doing things, but also developing some deeper intrinsic capabilities for the future.

"I'm confident it will hold Singapore well in the years and decades to come, and I'm confident that we have what it takes to work together on this to ensure that we succeed and remain a valued partner for others in the world."


Read our "Framing an Optimistic National Narrative"



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