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THE DEBT I owe

From left: Mrs Kelvyna Chan, Anglo-Chinese Junior College Principal; Joshua Jesudason; President Tony Tan Keng Yam; Mrs Mary Tan, First Lady; Mr Owyong Tuck Sing Victor, Fairfield Methodist Secondary School Principal. Photo courtesy of Anglo-Chinese Junior College

It not only teaches me that the destination of the journey I am on is still far off, and always worth striving toward, but it also reminds me of the amazing individuals who have lifted me out of ignorance and ineptitude, and brought me to where I am now

One would justifiably expect to feel a rush of pride, or heady euphoria upon receiving a President’s Scholarship. On the contrary, I did not. I felt instead a sense of overwhelming duty and did not experience any of these expected emotions upon receiving the good news. This is largely due to the fact that I was only too keenly aware of the debt I owe to many people who had brought me to this point.

I suppose the reason for this is that when one is given a title that represents an ideal, and recognised for qualities that are prescribed as desirable, the contrast between ideal and real becomes all too clear. And perhaps as a fault of my own character, I first recognise my shortcomings, my woeful inadequacies and my consistent failings in the garish light of achievement.

Rather than allow this to cause me to fall into a downward spiral of self-contempt, I have instead learnt to find solace and thanks in the very weakness of humanity that a title such as “President’s Scholar” reveals.

It not only teaches me that the destination of the journey I am on is still far off, and always worth striving toward, but it also reminds me of the amazing individuals who have lifted me out of ignorance and ineptitude, and brought me to where I am now: flawed, but blessed, and well-taught enough to be thought worthy of this honour.

I am grateful to tireless individuals like my parents, those two veritable saints, who never gave up on me though I must have presented nothing less than a terrible drain on their patience, strength and cheer.

My teachers saw a spark in the unlikeliest of places, and provided the atmosphere of care and effort, as well as the investment of time, to transform that spark into a fiery desire and passion for understanding not only in academia, but also of God, and of other people.

Finally, I thank my friends who walked through dark nights with me, and the multitude of individuals who impacted me in small ways, whether by preparing food in my school canteen, teaching me about the word of God in Sunday school, or the countless other services that shaped my experience of life.

The debt I owe them is incalculable. I am who I am because of them. Realising this makes it easier for me to commit, unwaveringly, to give back to them through this privilege that I have been accorded – to serve and protect them, as I’ve been served and protected. As God has used them to call me, He has called me to them – to minister and to bless.

Joshua Jesudason received the President’s Scholarship in August 2013. A former student of Anglo- Chinese Junior College and Fairfield Methodist Secondary School, he is now reading History and Politics at the University of Oxford. His family worships at Community of Praise Baptist Church.

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