By ROSHAN THIRAN
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Since the conclusion of Malaysia’s 14th General Election, we’ve read and heard a lot about what our country’s leaders should now do to help our nation prosper and regain its credibility on the global stage.
The time is ripe for us Malaysians to take stock of where we are and where we want to be, and surely we all have a part to play in helping our country to be the best that it can be.
I’ve always advocated the idea that leaders are nurtured, and that leadership qualities can be developed from an early age.
Of course, children take their lead from us. They watch how we treat each other, how we approach problems, and how we deal with issues.
If we want to develop strong characters and good citizens, it begins by asking ourselves: Are we demonstrating what it means to be an authentic, kind, and helpful person?
Starting them young
From the time children are in school – that’s where we can truly begin to shape the leaders of our future.
To teach them how to think, rather than what to think; to allow for exploration and experimentation instead of information retention; to nurture their confidence and belief in the value of being of service to others; as well as being capable of making a success of their own lives and paying it forward to the next generation.
Here’s an example of just how strong an influence education has on a child’s future.
Recent studies in America have suggested that if a class of 28 students had a better teacher for one year, the students’ income (over a lifetime) would increase by over $US260,000 if a bottom five per cent teacher is replaced with an average one, and more than $US560,000 if an average teacher is replaced with a great one.
It’s up to us, not the government
It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
– Frederick Douglass
At Leaderonomics youth camps and school programmes, one of the central tenets of what we work to achieve is to instil a sense of belief, team spirit, and a can-do mindset in young people.
Of the many fascinating things I’ve observed over the years, thousands of children we’ve worked with have pointed to one or more members of our team as role models or inspirations.
When they see their ideals demonstrated by someone who’s sincere and authentic, children actively want to raise their game to emulate those they admire. It’s heart-warming to see, and more so when these kids come back years later with their own stories of success to share.
It became clear to me that community, education, business, and national leaders have more influence over how our children are shaped than we think, and to a deeper level than we realise.
If we want to create lasting social change and build our country up, it doesn’t begin and end with a government administration. After all, governments and policies can change.
We need to build the kind of country we’d like to live in from the ground-up, which starts with educating our children not just to achieve the best grades possible, but also to become well-rounded, compassionate citizens.
After GE14: We have work to do
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
– Ronald Reagan
Malaysia has taken a bold leap forward in the aftermath of the 14th General Election, and it can be tempting to think that we have safeguarded our freedom and liberties following our duties at the ballot box.
On the contrary, the hard work of building our future begins now.
It’s something of a lifelong project that includes inspiring our children to be the best that they can be, and to value their country and freedom in a way that encourages them to carry those values with respect and care – never taking their freedom for granted.
More importantly, the example we each set for our children can either be the greatest gift we offer them or our greatest missed opportunity to empower today’s children to become tomorrow’s leaders who carry a passion for our country.
The antiquated mantra of “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. Every one of us has learnt through the examples set for us by our parents and their generation.
For those of us lucky enough to have had great examples to follow, we surely have a duty to pay that forward.
For the unfortunate few who lacked nurturing examples, perhaps the valuable life lessons learnt could be used to help our children understand the importance of resilience and strength in the face of challenge and adversity.
One thing for sure is that Malaysia has always possessed incredible potential, talented people, and the passion to be even greater than ever.
We’re now in a place where that dream can become a reality, and we can achieve more together – and quicker – if we keep in mind that we all demonstrate what it means to be Malaysian to those who come after us.
What we should consider: decide what kind of example we want to set, and realise that it’s not solely down to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to build a brighter future for our children and the generations to come.
We all play a part in setting up that future, and I know that we have the desire to work together to make it a stable, bright, and prosperous one.
Prefer an e-mag reading experience? No problem! This article is also available in our 25 August 2018 digital issue, which you can access here.