In this world, I rarely hear of any person who has never graduated from a university making a commencement address to graduating students. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg could be the only two exceptions.
It was only last week when Mark Zuckerberg made his commencement address at Harvard and it gives me the inspiration and hope of doing what may seem a long journey.
The key points of his speech were the challenge of creating a purpose. The challenge for our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.
When we look at ourselves, our families, our friends and our community, doesn’t it look pretty much the same?
Many wakes up in the morning, rush to work, brash through the traffic hour, back from work, rest for a couple of hours, sleep, and the same thing runs all over again on the next day. Sometimes they spend some rest, family time or some hobbies in the weekends.
There is this story of when John F Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and he walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded, “Mr. President, I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”
The janitor could have grumbled about his job and low pay throughout his entire working life. But this janitor at the NASA space center decided to create a sense of purpose for himself. What if nobody cleans the space center, it becomes dirty and messes up the working environment? It could have influenced the health and working attitude of the engineers and astronauts. These small things could have made an impact to the mission of putting man on the moon.
This is what that has kept our society moving forward. It is our challenge, not only to create new jobs, but to create a renewed sense of purpose.
Pursuing meaningful projects together is one way to create a world where everyone has a sense of purpose.
Meaningful projects can come in different forms.
The driver who chauffeured our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman around could have been seen just as a driver to some. But many never thought that he was the one that drove Tunku to important meetings that makes our nation’s independence successful.
The janitor at the Malaysia’s badminton training facility could have been only a cleaner, but he plays an important role ensuring the hygiene of the place, so that the players would not get ill.
The industrial sector of Penang would has been developed not only because of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu; there are also his team of advisors, the state EXCOs, their assistants, and moreover the people of Penang who have put their tears and sweat working in the factories.
Many jobs could have been seen as job for us to earn a living. But if we put the sense of purpose into it, we could do great things.
As Mark Zuckerberg has said to the millenials who have just graduated, we have to also tell ourselves that it’s our turn to do great things.
We do not have to be a highly educated or attain a high level of skills to do great things. Use what we know and turn into a sense of purpose; then we could do great things.
What about putting our time educating poor children who have lack of access to education?
What if we could educate drivers to have a better driving etiquette? We could have reduce traffic jams and accidents.
How about getting the employees of a factory to conduct environmental friendly practices? Pollutions may have been reduced.
What if we could spend time discussing ideas and solutions for the community’s problems; and submits it to the government? This is what we call citizen participation; and this could be a new political culture that we can cultivate.
I believe these aims are achievable. Let’s do them all in a way that gives everyone in our society a role to be better; in creating a better city and community. Let’s do big things, not only to create progress, but to create purpose.
This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 2nd June 2017.