Before I was one of We The Citizens

When I was enrolled in primary school, one of the first things taught was the National Pledge. It was like any other song/poem/story/dance taught at that young age, and I took to learning the words with gusto.

It was only when I was in Primary Four that I learned I had not been a citizen of Singapore. That year (1979), my parents took my brother and I down to Empress Place, I think it was, and I don’t remember if we swore an oath of allegiance or said the pledge, but I was given a Certificate of Citizenship then. I felt slightly guilty but mostly confused that I had been wrongfully saying the pledge all those years, calling myself one of Singapore’s citizens, disregarding race, language and religion and helping to build a democratic society in primary school.

I know I’m not alone in saying that back in those days, we were a bunch that mixed around a lot more. I know a smattering of Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and dialect, and have school friends across every race, color and religion. We knew some words of the pledge because we lived it. We didn’t need one day of the year to promote racial harmony, or a few minutes at NDP to take a moment to reflect on the pledge.

But I guess now we might – so they’ve put in giant Helvetica/Arial letters across the Marina Bay/Bras Basah area, the words of our pledge. The words that resonate with me are still “Regardless of race, language or religion”, because that’s the bedrock of what this country ought to be. Find yours at the various installations around Marina Bay, and check out instagram photos tagged with #pledgesg. Shoot yours on Instagram and add the tag #pledgesg and share it with everyone.

And if you have a story or a reflection to share about the national pledge, visit the site to submit it.

(c) Aik Beng Chia
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