A year ago, Halimah Yacob became the president of Singapore. She was the first female and second Malay president for our country.
Prior to her appointment, she was a Minister of Parliament (MP) before she became the Speaker of Parliament in 2013.
She may have had an illustrious political career, but her pre-politics path was just as impressive: she made her way up from a legal officer to become the director of legal services at National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
But everything wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter. The president reportedly was living in poverty after her father passed away when she was eight years old, leaving her mother to support her and her four siblings. She revealed in a previous interview that she had to skip school to help her mother sell nasi padang outside the former Singapore Polytechnic to support the family.
She eventually made it to National University of Singapore and graduated with an Honours degree in Law. The president walked the talk of lifelong learning, as she continued to pursue her Masters and Doctorate in Law even after making a name for herself.
If you’re not inspired by her life story yet, surely these quotes will inspire you.
On growing up with hardships
“Hardship should never be a deterrent. I think probably if my life had been a lot easier, I would not be where I am. But because my life was tough, that’s why I learnt so many things, I learnt to survive.” – Channel News Asia interview, 2017
“Marry for the right reason and remember it. Whenever we have any difference in opinion, as all couples do every now and then, I remember why I married [my husband]. I remember the sacrifices he made for me. And this makes it easier for us to work things out.” – At “will you ever be ready for marriage” conference via The Straits Times, 2017
On retrenched workers
“They are not just a digit because retrenchments, loss of jobs, affect them personally, very poignantly.” – The New Paper interview, 2016
On her job as an MP
“It may not be very glamorous but it is very satisfying. People come to me because they need help. If they don’t need me, then I might as well pack up and go home.” – Her World interview, 2003
On speaking up against racial stereotypes
“The danger is, because we’ve always been a harmonious society, we can become complacent, we don’t understand that there’s a lot of work that we need to do in order to generate that understanding. We do need to have deeper conversations about what it really means for us as a society, and as a people, to promote further multiracialism.” – At a racial harmony programme at the Singapore Discovery Centre via The Straits Times, 2018