9/11/2016, 15 years after the September 11th incident.

A message from one of our founding members, Leng Lim:

“The vision I had in mind (and others in the founding group had other visions), and speaking for myself, was shaped by the events in early 2001 and 2002 – the 9/11 bombings which seemed to have plunged America into a cultural war, and the bombings in Bali, which threatened to also upend the cultural harmony of Indonesia and ASEAN. I wanted young people to have heartfelt and character forming experiences with each other, to experience what it is like to work shoulder to shoulder on a project. Working closely can be one of the most intimate experiences a young person could have, and working shoulder to shoulder is intimate because of its difficulties as much as for its joys. I believe it is important for young people to have both experiences of success as well as failure, to taste sweetness as well as bitterness, and through the embrace of both, discover something real.

For me, when I see you all struggling, with each other, I am not saddened. I think this is absolutely part of the learning journey, and that stepping forth in more courage, decisiveness, boldness, are all qualities that are part of the learning experience.


One thing I would urge you not to lose is one principle, important to me, and coming from my own life experience at the United World College. Try very hard to get people who are different from each other work together–match a Singaporean with a Vietnamese, a Malay with a Chinese, an upper class Thai with a lower class Thai. This principle of working across difference is also why we have intergenerational mentoring, which is also cross cultural and cross-class. Create conditions for people who are different to find what is common between them. This is very important to maintain, because it is a transformational principle–it builds leaders who know how to be cosmopolitan, global, empathetic, action oriented.

This was me, in 1985, traveling. There are parts of Malaysia that are much the same. It was a profoundly wonderful trip, being welcomed by people so different from me, that it made me a better person. These were my teachers–the highway, the road, the kindness of strangers. May you also have these experiences for yourself and your team.”

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