A center of shared aspirations

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We publish here an excerpt from the inauguration speech of Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's new president

I have dedicated my life to serving Singapore, our home. Nothing could be more meaningful to me. My greatest privilege has been to work actively on the ground, week after week, for more than two decades. Listening to people's hopes and concerns, helping them overcome life's difficulties and sharing their joys. (...) An equitable and inclusive society goes far beyond government policies. It is about all of us. It is about the respect and friendship we bring to one another. Regardless of our background and educational achievement. Regardless of race, religion or any other differences. And it's about knowing that if one group of our people loses hope, all of us will have less hope as Singaporeans. Now more than ever we need to deepen our solidarity as Singaporeans so that we can lift each other up. (...) The challenges facing our country will increase. We are in a time of transition, both in Singapore and internationally. We are entering a new, more difficult and more complex era. The world is increasingly divided and unstable. Global crises-economic, geopolitical and environmental-are erupting more often. They will test all countries, especially smaller ones like Singapore. At home, in Singapore, we are becoming a democracy with more diverse opinions. I see this as inevitable and healthy, and I have said it many times. But our real challenge as Singaporeans is to ensure that this diversity of opinion does not lead us to a more divided society, like many others. We need to be a democracy with more room for diverse opinions and a thriving civil society. But to be confident in our future, we must also be a society with a strong center of shared aspirations and respect for all citizens.(...) We can and must strengthen a culture of respect for all Singaporeans in the years ahead. We must never become just another small country. I have been flying Singapore's flag internationally for many years and will actively work to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. (...) In my many years in government as a minister, I have remained true to my ideals of social justice and inclusion and have worked continuously, year after year, to build consensus on practical and sustainable ways to improve the lives of ordinary workers and citizens. Although the president is distinct from the government and does not engage in politics, I will never give up this purpose in my life and mental independence in the performance of my duties. We will go through ups and downs. But we are still one place where we can work together to make the future better for all.

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