What is a great person? How do you become a great person? Do you have to be extremely smart, intelligent, wealthy and capable?
Speaking of this, I was reminded of this year’s China CCTV Chinese New Year programme Spring Festival Gala (Chunwan). There was a segment where Song Zuying and Celine Dion sang a song together, they are the top sopranos of China and America respectively. The song was Jasmine.
Why was I reminded of this song Jasmine–even six-year-olds can sing it–when I think of great men?
Whenever we speak of great men, we will talk about their childhood experiences. Does this mean that talent makes a person great? In other words, are great men born with the personality to become great? Well, if that’s the case, what’s the point of sharing stories of great men to educate others? Why don’t we allow everyone to rely on their inner talent to become a great person naturally?
That’s clearly not the case. You will have to overcome challenges to become great and these challenges or tests, are often as simple as the song Jasmine. The test of being a great person does not only take place when you are a child, it occurs even when you’re an adult, until the day you pass away.
There was a president named Washington. When he was a child, he chopped down the cherry tree that his father loved. He faced a simple test: to own up or to escape. To take responsibility or to run away? To admit or to lie? Washington bravely made the right choice. Not only did he make the right choice at that time, he made the right choices all his life until death.
A great country was born because of him.
He is a great president. He is.
Another American president was born more than 200 years after Washington’s birth. His name is Clinton. People cannot escape from doing wrong and the same goes for Clinton. He made a wrong decision and had an improper relationship with his secretary. When he was questioned by his citizens and faced impeachment, he had to go through the same test as Washington. The simple question: To own up or to escape. To take responsibility or to run away? To admit or to lie? This is a simple yet difficult choice.
Unfortunately, Clinton did not make the right choice. Hence, Clinton can be considered a capable president, a money-making president, a smart president. However, he will not be considered a great president. He is not.
Our neighbour, Malaysia, will be holding a general election tomorrow. Malaysia gained independence two years before Singapore did. Both countries were previously British colonies, and shared many similarities in their systems and constitution. However, 40 to 50 years after independence, Singapore is now a first world country with the highest per capita income in the world, enjoying unparalleled security, prosperity and progress. Whilst Malaysia is far from becoming a first world country. It’s not a safe country and its citizens are panicking before the general election. It is not because Malaysia has not seen a capable leader, a money-making leader or a smart leader, but because their leaders did not make the right choices, like what our leaders did, when faced with simple yet critical challenges.
Our world yesterday, needed great people.
Our world today, needs great people.
Our world tomorrow, needs great people even more.
We need to work hard to be great.
Today, we will be hearing stories of many great men. I hope these simple yet great stories can remain in our hearts forever, like the song Jasmine.
Let the story of the great man, tell the story of the great man, and decide who’s the winner today.
But the simple yet important tests that make you great will never end.
I hope you will always remember the stories of great men when facing those trials. Just like how we won't forget the song Jasmine.
I hope you will always have the courage to make the right choice. Whether you are a great person, will determine how our world will be tomorrow.
-- Master Yun Long Zi, 2013