Lawrence Wong delivered his first speech as Singapore’s fourth premier as he was sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday evening (15 May). Read his speech in full here:

Mr President, Colleagues and Friends, My fellow Singaporeans, I am deeply honoured to be sworn in as the Prime Minister of Singapore.

Tonight, we are joined by Singaporeans from all walks of life. You embody the rich fabric of our nation: students and teachers; unionists and business leaders; athletes and artists; community volunteers and frontliners.

Whether you are here physically at the Istana, or watching from home, your presence is felt and deeply appreciated. I seek your support and your trust.

My team and I will do our utmost to serve you and our country. Let me say a few words in Malay and Mandarin, before I continue in English.

Generational Change

Today marks a significant milestone – a passing of the baton, not just between leadership teams, but also across generations.

I am the first Prime Minister of Singapore to be born after independence.  Almost all my colleagues in the 4G team were also born after 1965. My generation’s story is the story of independent Singapore.  Our lives are testimony to the values that forged our nation:

Incorruptibility
Meritocracy
Multiracialism
Justice, and
Equality

These principles are deeply ingrained in all of us. We understand the vital importance of good leadership, political stability, and long-term planning. We ourselves are the beneficiaries of the imaginative policies of our founding fathers…

Pursued resolutely and patiently over decades. Shaped by these experiences, our leadership style will differ from that of previous generations.

We will lead in our own way. We will continue to think boldly and to think far. We know that there is still much more to do.

For the story of our island-nation continues to unfold. There are many more pages to write. And the best chapters of our Singapore Story lie ahead.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As we write the next chapters, we are not starting from scratch. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his team led us through independence and established the key pillars of governance. Mr Goh Chok Tong and his team took us through the next lap, and nurtured a kinder and gentler society. These are important foundations we will build on.

Tonight, I record our nation’s gratitude – and my own – to Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

Over a lifetime of public service, stretching over half a century, he devoted every measure of his being to the service of our country and people. Under his stewardship, Singapore navigated external as well as domestic changes, and overcame multiple crises.

Mr Lee spoke often of the need to keep Singapore exceptional. He was exceptional himself – in his devotion, his selflessness, and his dedication to serve. We owe him a great debt of gratitude.

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I am grateful that Mr Lee and the more experienced ministers will continue to serve in my Cabinet. They will provide continuity, as I renew and strengthen the team with new members.

One of my key priorities is to identify and persuade younger Singaporeans – men and women in their 30s and 40s to join our team. So I call out tonight to all my fellow citizens: Help me to provide Singaporeans with the government they deserve. Let us make a difference, and serve our nation together.

A Different World

Singapore’s position is strong.  But the world around us is in flux. For thirty years since the Cold War ended, we enjoyed unprecedented peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.

Unfortunately, that era is over.  It will not return. Now we face a world of conflict and rivalry. The great powers are competing to shape a new, yet undefined, global order.

This transition will be marked by geopolitical tensions, as well as protectionism and rampant nationalism everywhere. It will likely stretch for years, if not decades.

As a small country, we cannot escape these powerful cross-currents. As an open economy, our livelihoods will be hit when multilateralism fractures. As a diverse society, we will be vulnerable to external influences that tug us in different directions. We must brace ourselves to these new realities and adapt to a messier, riskier and more violent world.

Fortunately, our international standing is high, and the Singapore brand is admired and trusted worldwide. We seek to be friends with all, while upholding our rights and interests. We value the centrality of ASEAN and its efforts to foster regional cooperation and integration.

We hope for stable US-China relations and will continue engaging both powers, even as issues inevitably arise between them. We will strengthen our partnerships, near and far; and advance Singapore’s interests, so as to better shape outcomes for ourselves as well as the world.

Building on our Strengths

This is not the first time that we’ve had to confront tough external circumstances. We have done so repeatedly over the last six decades.  Each time, we have weathered the storms and emerged stronger.

The key to our success is our high level of trust in each other, and our ability to work well together. Singapore has always been a diverse country – many races, many religions, many languages – and more so now than before.

Yet we’ve strengthened our bonds as one people. We have achieved this not by denying our differences, but by embracing them. We have ensured that every community, every religion and every linguistic group, big or small, feels: Included, Respected, and Valued.

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When issues arise between communities, and from time to time, they will – we do not accentuate our differences. Instead, we accept them. We seek pragmatic compromises and find as much common ground as possible.

We do so always in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. This is the ethos that will guide me and my team. This is how we will continue to evolve and strengthen our Singapore identity.

It’s never about subtracting, but always about adding. It’s never about contracting, but always about expanding. So from our diversity, we forge unity.

From many, we become one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion. This collective striving for unity saw us through the Covid pandemic, the crisis of our generation. We responded effectively to the pandemic because we trust one another. The way we dealt with the crisis – together, saving lives and livelihoods – deepened our social capital, and made us a better and stronger people.

Covid was a baptism of fire for me and my team. It reinforced my conviction that our exceptional performance as a nation lies not in any one person or any single institution, but in how well we can can work together as one Team Singapore.

As Prime Minister, I will lead and bear responsibility for the decisions I take. But I will also engage and maximise the combined energies, imaginations and strengths of all Singaporeans. That is how we will take our nation forward in this dangerous and troubled world.

Forward Singapore

Today, Singapore is at a high economic level, compared to most other countries. By international standards, we have built excellent systems of education, housing, healthcare and transport. But our circumstances are changing, technology is advancing, and our population is ageing fast.

So we cannot afford to cruise along. We must continue to do our best – to improve, upgrade, and transform Singapore. I am convinced we can, and we must, do better.

This is why I launched the Forward Singapore exercise. We listened to and spoke with many of you; we distilled your aspirations into a shared vision for our future.

Forward Singapore represents the ambitions of our generation. It expresses our resolve to keep our society strong and united; to share the benefits of progress with all, not just some; to uplift all Singaporeans, and not just a few.

Younger Singaporeans in particular have spoken clearly. They will strive and work hard for their goals. But they do not wish to be trapped in an endless rat race of hyper-competition. They want a refreshed Singapore Dream – one that is not defined by material success alone, but also offers meaning and purpose in their careers and their lives.

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I am determined to help Singaporeans realise your dreams.

With our tripartite partners, we will continue to build a vibrant economy and create good jobs for all. We will find new ways to be productive and innovative, and achieve a better balance where work is purposeful, and life is meaningful. We will foster a fairer, more just and more equal society.

We will look after our seniors, the vulnerable amongst us, and those with special needs. We will support all Singaporeans, regardless of their start points, age or ability – to uplift themselves and lead fulfilling lives.

My team and I will do more in all of these areas. We need your help too – to support our fellow citizens, and to renew our commitment to each other. Then we can build a Singapore where everyone succeeds in being the best possible versions of themselves.

We can be a people, who are more: Inclusive, Gracious, and Big-Hearted. We can be a society where every Singaporean matters.  And a Singapore that matters to every Singaporean.

These are ambitious goals. There are no easy formulas to apply, no available models to follow. We will have to experiment, discover fresh solutions and blaze new paths.

Along the way, there will be voices that doubt our ability to go further. This skepticism has been with us since the beginning. Many have said that Singapore won’t make it. Yet time and again, we have proved the doubters wrong. And we will do so again.

As Singaporeans, we all know what it means to exceed expectations – to go beyond what others think we are capable of, or even what we ourselves thought we could do. When the going gets tough, we do not crumble. We press on, with faith in our fellow citizens and in Singapore’s future.

We strive harder, reach further, and prove that with determination and hard work, there is no challenge we cannot overcome. I will bring this same spirit in to my new role.

This is my promise to all Singaporeans: I will serve you with all my heart. I will never settle for the status quo. I will always seek better ways to make tomorrow better than today.

My mission is clear: to continue defying the odds and to sustain this miracle called Singapore. So that we can reach even greater heights. So that we can be a beacon of hope and unity for ourselves and our children.

Taking Singapore Forward Together

My fellow Singaporeans, I ask you to join me and my team in our journey forward. Everyone will have a stake in our nation’s progress. Everyone will play a key role in shaping our future.

Let us unite with common purpose and shared resolve. Let us take Singapore Forward – Together. Thank you.