Before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump began their verbal sparring in the testy second U.S. presidential debate on Sunday, Kenneth Sng, the Singaporean student union president at Washington University in St. Louis delivered a remarkable opening remark to represent the host university.
The 24-year-old opened with a brief history reminder, going back to when the United States’ “was founded on a grand promise” which president Abraham Lincoln espoused the ideal that America will “create a true government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
Speaking before a crowded hall, Sng mentioned how this “great democratic experiment has since spread like wildfire to much of the world… including to Singapore, my home.”
The Singaporean student observed however, that these early ideals are now being contested by those “with a much different vision of the world, of their power and of their responsibilities to their citizens.”
In reference to the upcoming Nov. 8 voting day, Sng said, “citizens across this nation will cast their ballots and show the world that democracy as an ideal burns brightly in the dark.”
Sng concluded his address by expressing pride on having his university host the debate and “giving voice to competing ideas at the core of democracy.”
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong later praised Sng with a post on his Facebook page:
“Glad that he mentioned ‘Singapore, my home’, in his remarks. Well done Kenneth. Keep the Singapore flag flying high!”
Sng later told The Straits Times how surprised he was that he would be speaking at the debate:
“Past student union presidents have given remarks at debates… But I was still surprised because, after all, I am an international student and I didn’t think they would let me give remarks at a debate on their national elections.”
Sng, who is currently on his final year at the university as an economics and mathematics major, is a Public Service Commission scholarship holder. He holds the distinction of being the first international student to be student body president in the history of Washington University.