07 Nov 2011 Women in Dialogue – Engaging for a Peaceful World
“Life is the way you see it. You are the architect of your reality.” Ms Claire Chiang, Senior Vice President of Banyan Tree Holdings Limited, guest speaker for the Fourth SSA Women Peace Lecture, said that this was the biggest lesson learnt after 60 years. Chairperson for the lecture, Ms Clarinda Choh, Director of I-Spark Consortium, Hwa Chong Institution, introduced Ms Chiang as “a very dynamic woman who is a social activist, entrepreneur and author, Singapore’s Woman of the Year (1999) and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP)”.
The lecture, held at the SSA Headquarters on November 7, entitled “Women in Dialogue – Engaging for A Peaceful World” was attended by some 600 women peace builders—comprising both SSA members and friends. Ms Chiang shared her personal experience on learning how to “engage for Peace” through understanding the real world’s complexities, and her realisation for the need of “emotional knowledge to prepare ourselves to engage with others”. Ms Chiang further elaborated on “transformational leadership” and “personal responsibility” being the two key drivers in peace-making.
On the topic of “transformational leadership, she said: “I believe that we all aspire to live lives of meaning. A good leader not only gets things done, but enables us, in the doing, to transcend our smaller selves and makes us feel that we have touched the better part of our selves. Leadership is both aspirational and inspirational. One inspires, the other aspires.” For Ms Chiang, transformational leaders must have two important key differentiators: they must (1) possess the courage to be different and (2) the ability to step into the unknown.
When it comes to “personal responsibility”, Ms Chiang shared: “The first wisdom lesson from my parents and teachers was ‘Life does not owe you anything, it is your responsibility to make things happen’… The fact that these values from my early days still govern my thoughts and actions today is a strong testimony of the importance of nurturing foundation values in the young. Peace must be the outcome of everyone taking responsibility and living responsibly,” she shared. “Peace is the outcome of the willingness to stay engaged to find solutions, and finding our common ground to work at achieving bigger goals to improve community.”
“Seeking peace is not about proving who is right or wrong; it is about knowing what skills and attitude you can apply in a difficult situation to defuse a challenge and to motivate a change. Fundamentally, it is about a commitment to work together to find the solution,” she concluded.
Ms Chiang also praised SSA for empowering and equipping the young with the necessary understanding and essential skills of engagement in today’s complex world: “[SSA aims at] helping young children understand while they search for their beacon in life, seeding in their hearts the values that will guide them as they sail towards uncharted waters; harnessing and strengthening their personal resources so that they excel and stretch their potential and know when and what to say ‘no’ to; and coaching them in the process of engagement to become builders in small ways and big ones, so that they surge forth and build the community for the future.”
Following an engaging question-and-answer session, Ms Chiang wrapped up her lecture by asking everyone to consider the four symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (+, -, x and ÷). The symbol ‘+’ means to list down what we want to add to our life; the symbol ‘–‘ means to subtract those things that are irrelevant; the symbol ‘x’ means to create the multiplier effect by living well and working smart and the symbol ‘÷’ means to share our life with someone.
In her closing speech, SSA Young Women Division Chief Ms Yeap Lay Huay thanked Ms Chiang for the insightful speech and for sharing her rich life experience. In appreciation, Ms Claire Chiang and Ms Clarinda Choh were both presented with the “SSA Women Award”.
[The Women Peace Lecture series was initiated by the SSA Women Peace Committee that was formed in 2004 to encourage greater women participation in activities promoting peace, culture and education. The Peace Lecture aims at creating awareness and understanding of the potential of women as peace messengers and peace builders.]