26 Sep 2020
RECORDED MESSAGE BY V JANANI, VALEDICTORIAN AT THE SINDA EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2020
- Hello everyone! My heartfelt congratulations to fellow SINDA Excellence Awards recipients for your achievements. My name is V Janani, and I recently graduated from the National University of Singapore with Honours in Global Studies. I am deeply humbled and honoured to be selected as the valedictorian this year.
- This year has not been easy for everyone. We have been challenged in ways we haven’t been before. As we look at the chapters we have crossed, I hope we take this time to reflect, celebrate our wins, and express our gratitude. For me, I would like to tell my parents, my grandmother, my extended family, friends, fellow volunteers and my educators, a heartfelt thank you. Your love and support sustained me through difficult times, and the good times were made memorable by your presence.
- We are in both a scary and exciting time in our lives, where we start our newest chapter transitioning to work or starting in a new educational institution. There are so many possibilities, and with that, choices to be made — choices that can seem intimidating and overwhelming. To navigate this new terrain, I’d like to offer three attitudes to carry with us, attitudes that I hold closely to me: hope, curiosity and empathy.
- On hope. Some say hope leaves us vulnerable. It’s true. I remember hoping for many things — for better grades in classes that I studied really hard for but still failed, for days that I prayed would go as I planned, and even for my grandfather’s recovery. At each instance, I was met with sadness, disappointment, and frustration. Yet, I continued to have hope, and this hope is what pushed me to keep working towards my goals. In war, they say the strategy to win, is to make the opposing side lose hope. It is in those moments, where they internally feel defeated, that they entirely give up. It is easier to give up than to have hope. Hope is powerful, and this optimism and faith in yourself and your abilities will bring you to places you never think you’d end up, and even open new opportunities.
- Next, I would like to talk about curiosity. There is so much for us in the world to learn: about ourselves, our society and the world. Be hungry for knowledge and ask questions — not only to learn new information and glean insights, but to better shape your worldview as well. Learn more about the people around you in your different spheres. Read widely across disciplines and geography. It is through curiosity that we learn and grow, but importantly, it helps us discover ourselves and gives perspective to our role in our world.
- The more I spoke to many different people and the more I learnt, the more I slowly found out who Janani was – what principles were important to her, what she stood for and what impact she would like to create. Now with certainty, I can say that I am passionate about advocating for justice, gender equality, anti-racism, mental health, and community building. What I want may morph over time, but for now, my curiosity has allowed me to gain much-needed clarity and I’m sure it will continue serving me well. Similar to how we talk about life-long learning, the journey to learning about yourself never ends.
- As we empower ourselves with knowledge, and gain experiences to hone our wisdom, it is also important to look towards applying what we have learnt to make a difference. This brings me to the final attitude of exercising empathy – for oneself, for one’s circles and for the community.
- In my short time with the SINDA Youth Club so far, I’ve witnessed such heartfelt demonstrations of empathy – a fellow subcommittee member independently stepped up to volunteer at dormitories over the weekends, another member took the time to check-in on her migrant friends during the circuit breaker period, while other members recognised the plight of the graduating cohorts and quickly put together a series of workshops to help job-seeking graduates.
- Empathy takes many forms. It is demonstrated not only in the form of community projects which can be of larger scale, but also comes in small packages – small gestures, kind words, even if that means positively impacting only one person. Sometimes, that person can even be yourself. We can start by making a difference in our own spheres of influence: at home, school, work or with our friends. We can make a conscientious choice to be thoughtful, to stand up against injustices and to identify opportunities for meaningful conversation. It is with consistent effort that we can exercise our empathy and make a difference.
- For me, I do this through volunteering with organisations like SINDA Youth Club, Young Changemakers and Youth Corps Singapore. I learn a lot about Singapore society and a plethora of causes not only through volunteering itself, but also from my fellow volunteers. I find great joy in helping to empower youth to go forth with their own volunteer projects and in imparting knowledge about Singapore’s social landscape with fellow youth, acting as a multiplier of sorts, and soon hope to embark upon more projects to inspire change.
- These three attitudes that I’ve shared are some of many others that are important, but are three that I believe are essential to carry with us as we collectively manoeuvre the current landscape that is battling against Covid-19. Covid-19 has brought about uncertainties, changes and has exposed cracks in our society. With hope, curiosity and empathy, we can grasp opportunities to create better solutions, and respond accordingly to difficult hurdles that we will come across.
- With that, I once again extend my sincere congratulations to all recipients of the SINDA Excellence Award 2020. Our journey has not ended, if anything it has just begun. Onwards and upwards.
- Thank you.