When 26-year-old Lester Lim was an undergraduate at NUS, he went to the United States in 2008 on a six-month exchange programme at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The stint coincided with the historic election in which Mr Barack Obama became the country’s first African-American president. Although it was a foregone conclusion that the state’s electoral votes would go to the Democratic Party (Mr Obama was the state’s senator), Mr Lim remembers vividly the seriousness with which young Americans took their ballots.
His roommate, an Italian-American, locked himself in his room on Election Day because he wanted time to think over who he was going to vote for, and why. Mr Lim recalls his incredulity then: “I was knocking on the door, saying, are you sure you are going to spend the whole day thinking about this? The answer: ‘Yes. It’s my civic responsibility.’” “The civic awareness that young Americans have, I don’t think Singaporeans realise it yet,” reflects Mr Lim, now working in the financial industry.
His US experience prompted him to start an online newspaper, the Kent Ridge Common, on his return to NUS. Featuring commentaries on socio-political issues from undergraduates, the site achieved a high of 40,000 hits a month. It is now run by a new team of undergraduates, after he graduated last year.
Extracted from the article in The Straits Times:
Feeling the pulse of the post-75 generation, 16 April 2011
(a) What would you do if you were in Mr. Lim’s shoes?
(b) Why is it important for each citizen to have civic responsibility?