Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is currently in Washington, USA, on a state visit at the invitation of President Barack Obama, and in typical PM Lee fashion delivered many updates through his Facebook page.
The social media update that everyone is tuning in to, however, comes from the live video of the Arrival Ceremony at the White House, where both PM Lee and President Obama addressed attendees, and also the world.
Celebrating 50 Years Of Diplomatic Relations
In probably the last time Barack Obama is addressing us as the President of the USA, he takes the audience through the history of Singapore, and how it has grown from his childhood times in Southeast Asia until the present day.
In his typical style of delivering a speech peppered with humour, he even include the colloquial ways we Singaporeans speak English, and went through the many milestones that both countries had gone through together.
President Obama was also full of praise for Singapore for its commitment to education and innovation, and for the heart of its people which can be seen not just in Singapore, but also from the many Singaporeans working and studying in the USA.
Significance Of Silicon Valley And Block 71
“We see our friendship in the collaborations between our innovators and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley to Singapore’s Block 71.” – Barack Obama
President Obama himself is a purveyor of future technologies and innovations, and stands firmly by the idea of supporting each new generation in helping them develop skills through science and technology.
The only reason why the White House Science Fair even exists was because he started it. Since 2010, it has hosted America’s brightest young minds, and with its most recent sixth iteration, will be the President’s last.
I would definitely agree with the New York Times in them saying that Obama will be leaving the White House a nerdier place than when he found it, and sincerely hope that the next US President continues this event.
Thus, it came as no surprise that he name-dropped both Silicon Valley and Block 71 in the same sentence, as both places are, to each country, a place of significance where the country’s brightest young minds converge to create the future.
Block 71, located in one-north, is a buzzing hive of entrepreneur and startup collectives who have formed a melting pot of creativity and ingenuity. Silicon Valley is also where the National University of Singapore started their NUS Overseas College Programme back in 2002.
So when Block 71 opened a sister branch in San Francisco in January last year, taking on its namesake, it seemed to be a somewhat logical step forward.
As much as it is a place for Singaporean startups to gain a foothold in the American market, the reverse can be said to be true as well, where companies from the US will often see Singapore as a gateway to the rest of Asia. PM Lee even paid a visit to the Singaporean working there earlier this year, and even celebrated the Lunar New Year with them; in a visit that took him to places such as Google, Facebook, and Tesla.
In a separate news conference with the media, President Obama also stressed the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and how it can potentially allow engineers and entrepreneurs from Singapore to work together with their counterparts in the US easily without too much restrictions.
All these are part of measures to open up globalisation and trade through this partnership, while also expanding the US’ trusted travelers program to make it easier for business to meet each other between the countries.
Trust In The Next Generation
In the news conference as well, President Obama too mentioned of a new exchange programme initiated by Singapore as part of the 50 years of diplomatic ties, where 50 students from Singapore and 50 from the US will have their summer exchange funded for in the next five years.
Along with the new programme is the current Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative from where both countries hope to continue to empower youths in the region to become the leaders of tomorrow.
While the Arrival Ceremony was more of a history lesson and belaying the importance of bi-partisan cooperation between the two countries when dealing with trade and security, you cannot deny that both PM Lee and President Obama have initiated some exciting initiatives that young people in both countries can soon take advantage of.
Featured Image Credits: todayonline