People’s Action Party (PAP) heavyweight Chan Chun Sing claimed that he “did not aim to be a Minister, I wanted to be a librarian” as he delivered the keynote address at the Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarships Award Ceremony, last Wednesday (17 July).
Mr Chan, who serves as Minister for Trade and Industry, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service and second assistant secretary-general of the PAP, told the audience the story of why he joined the Public Service.
Revealing that he “did not join the Public Service because of some lofty ambition to change the world and bring Singapore to the next higher plane,” he said that he joined the Public Service because he needed a scholarship to further his studies.
The politician asserted, “I did not aim to be a Minister, I wanted to be a librarian – it was a very logical choice.”
Revealing that he wished to be a librarian because he liked to read and because he thought it would be nice to be paid to read as a librarian, Mr Chan shared that he indicated his desire to be a librarian in his PSC application.
Sharing that he put the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as his second choice in the application because someone happened to mention it was another scholarship the PSC offered, Mr Chan recounted:
“I like to read books. The old library at Stamford Road, the red brick building, was one of the few places in Singapore that had air conditioning and allowed you to read books free of charge. And if I was a librarian, they would even pay me to do the job.
“I went to the PSC, got a scholarship application form and I indicated PSC (Open) so that I could be a librarian.
“But there were two blanks there. My teacher taught me that in any test or examination, never to leave a blank. I asked around about the other scholarships the PSC offered, someone shouted SAF, so I dutifully put SAF.
“When I went for my interview, the PSC members asked me if I would be prepared to serve in the SAF. So I said did not choose the SAF, I wanted to be a librarian. The PSC told me, no, second choice the SAF, second choice is still a choice. So I joined the SAF.
“I did not wear spectacles. I was supposed to go to the Air Force. My mother told me in Mandarin – “做 人要脚踏实地” – keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. So I joined the Army. And to be even more specific, I joined the infantry.”
Sharing that he learned to care for others and command hundreds of thousands of men, Mr Chan continued: “Why do I share this story with you? Moral of the story is that life has many twists and turns. Very often, we start off aiming very high to try to change the world, but it is often very useful to start doing things small and practically.”
Netizens responding to Mr Chan’s story online were sarcastic and said that he should have become a librarian instead of joining politics. Others said that Mr Chan’s decision to put the SAF as a second option just because someone shouted it shows that he may not have had a mind of his own: