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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Launch of #futuretogether on 15 January 2020

15 Jan 2020

Minister Desmond Lee, and 
Minister Josephine Teo, 
Co-Chairs of the Singapore Bicentennial Ministerial Steering Committee,

Mr Niam Chiang Meng,
Chairman, Gardens by the Bay

Mr Lim Chow Kiat,

Members of the Ministerial Steering Committee,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

A very good evening. 

It is fitting that today we are drawing our Bicentennial commemoration activities to a close at Gardens by the Bay. In many ways, the Gardens reflect our transformation as a nation. Two hundred years ago, this was the sea.

In fact, this was where the original Singapore Harbour was with all kinds of ships anchored here! Over the decades, we first reclaimed land from sea, and then transformed this plot of reclaimed land into a beautiful park enjoyed by our people and visitors from all around the world. Today, the Domes and Supertrees have become part of our iconic Marina Bay skyline. Gardens by the Bay is a symbol of how far we have come, and a reminder that as we build our future Singapore, we are limited only by the scope of our daring and imagination.

Journeying from Singapore to Singaporean

Over the past year, the various Bicentennial commemoration activities have helped us to reflect on our journey from Singapore to Singaporean.

This journey began even before Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore in 1819. Back in the 14th century, there was already a thriving seaport at the mouth of the Singapore River. Over the course of 700 years, our island was buffeted by the rise and fall of regional powers.

The arrival of the British was no different in this regard. But taken with the resulting waves of immigration, the institutions the British built, and the wider geopolitical developments of the last two centuries, 1819 represented a critical turning point in our story. It set us on the trajectory to be the sovereign, multiracial and multicultural country we are today.

This story was painstakingly brought to life through the Singapore Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning – the fruit of more than three years of research. Over seven months, we welcomed more than 760,000 visitors, more than double the initial number when the Bicentennial Experience was first envisioned! Through both the indoor “Time Traveller” and outdoor Pathfinder pavilions, visitors could immerse themselves in the sights and sounds of our history, stretching back more than 700 years.

Along the way, we were reminded of the three fundamental values that underpinned our Singapore Story. First, openness: our forefathers came from different lands, staking their hopes and dreams on this island’s openness to the world, and the opportunities it created. Second, multiculturalism: despite differences of race, language or religion, our forefathers worked together to build thriving communities here, united by a common aspiration to create a better future for subsequent generations. Even as the odds were stacked against us, we held on to a third value – self-determination. Our people knew that we had to take our fates and our children’s futures in our own hands. So we fought for the right to chase our dreams on our own terms and chart our own destiny.

This drive to forge a nation – open to the world, together as one people – was most vividly captured in the final Act of the “Time Traveller”. Holding clear plastic umbrellas as the rain poured down, we were brought back to our key milestones – the years leading up to Independence, the 1968 National Day Parade, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral. These were defining moments that brought us together as a nation, and seeing these re-enacted only renewed my resolve to work together with our people, to build a better Singapore, and a brighter tomorrow.

Many older Singaporeans told me that they cried when visiting the Bicentennial Experience, especially when they reflected on our progress since Independence. Because they recalled how their lives had improved over the last few decades, and they were moved as they looked back on how far we have come since those turbulent early years.

The Bicentennial Experience was also meaningful for many younger Singaporeans. In October, I had the privilege of meeting the 500,000th visitor, 18 year-old Tit Yee Kiat. He shared with me how there were so many lessons that we could draw from our past and take to the future. Our young volunteers likewise found the experience instructive – learning more about our history, sharing their insights with visitors, and building confidence in the process. Two of them, Danish and Clement from Outram Secondary School, were so enthusiastic about volunteering, that they even came down after school on numerous occasions to help out!

Indeed, the Bicentennial Experience would not have been possible, without the dedication of more than 2,300 volunteers. Thank you for putting in the time and effort to make the showcase a special one for all our visitors.

I also want to thank the many schools, community groups, grassroots, religious institutions, businesses and individuals that organised your own commemoration events. Hundreds of Bicentennial-themed events were held last year. In fact, Minister Josephine Teo just told me that if we add all of those events, more than nine million participated in the events altogether. These came in all forms – seminars and talks, exhibitions, festivals, performances, plays, book launches, heritage trails, and films. By tracing your own threads through the Singapore Story, you brought the Bicentennial to life for your friends, neighbours and community.

Finally, I want to thank Josephine, Desmond and my colleagues in the Singapore Bicentennial Ministerial Steering Committee, for your leadership in bringing together the community to make our Bicentennial commemoration a success. Not to forget Gene and his team at the Singapore Bicentennial Office too – thank you for all your creativity, able planning and hard work.

Building the Singapore of tomorrow

Looking back over the course of our Bicentennial year, and what we have achieved over the decades, I feel confident about our future.

We have built something truly special here in Singapore. Even as many societies around us have turned inward, divided by their differences, and anxious about their future, we in Singapore have resolved to stay open, reaffirmed our unity as one people, and renewed our determination to progress together. These convictions drove our forefathers to build a nation, where none stood before. In the same way, our future Singapore will be defined by the choices that each of us make today.

This was why I launched the Singapore Together movement in June last year. Like our forefathers, the current generations of Singaporeans believe in the potential of Singapore and what we can achieve in the world. We want to harness this wellspring of energy and ideas by encouraging our people to step forward, share their passions, and take ownership of our shared future. We will create more opportunities for us to work together – with each other, with the community, and with the Government – to broaden our democracy of deeds, and build the Singapore of tomorrow.

Launch of #futuretogether

The launch of the #futuretogether multi-media showcase today is therefore timely.

This is an immersive showcase at the Gardens created in collaboration with teamLab, the renowned Japanese digital art studio. The showcase, which is inspired by the spirit of our Singapore Together movement, aims to encourage our people to continue dreaming about a better future and collectively articulate our aspirations for Singapore. So even as we have fun and appreciate the beauty of the digital artworks here, I want to challenge all of us to reflect on our journey as a nation thus far, and resolve to take action to give our best for each other and for our shared future.   

One of the exhibits today, the Message Pillar, provides visitors the opportunity to share their reflections with each other. You can use your smartphone to “cast” your message onto the pillar and also view messages from fellow Singaporeans. I invite all Singaporeans to share your hopes and dreams for Singapore, and see for yourselves how our individual aspirations can come together to forge our collective commitment for the future. The next chapter of the Singapore Story rests in all our hands!


As we wrap up the Bicentennial commemoration, and step into 2020, I am confident that we can do so with a better appreciation of: who we are as a people, what we have achieved together, and where we want to go on the next phase of our journey.  

So let us work together to build on the best of who we are today, to create the Singapore of tomorrow – confident of our place in the world, enriched by our diverse heritage, working in partnership with one another, and always determined to be a place where every generation can chase their dreams and leave a better Singapore for our children. 

Thank you.