As many of his friends attest, Yong Li has an outgoing, friendly personality; he answered our questions in an assured manner. When asked about why he joined student’s council, he says “I had been through a leadership experience in secondary school, and really enjoyed it”, continuing “I want to do something that is very meaningful, because despite having a job that develops yourself, you help develop other people at the same time. I always try to make a positive difference in other people’s lives”. Interestingly, he commented that he enjoyed doing interviews like these – because it let him interact with new people.
When I asked him about his speech, the memorable cry of “NIL SINE LABORE”, and why he did it, he answered “my speech I showed who I am – a little weird at times. Regarding the nil sine labore at the end, the first time I heard what nil sine labore meant – so inspiring, y’know? Nothing without labour. That’s a really interesting motto – but why is everyone saying it in such a hushed whisper? So when I went back home I was thinking: if I had a chance to say that on stage I would make sure it would be said in gusto. Because I feel that it’s something which gives me a sense of pride when I say it.”
When asked what his greatest weakness was, he acknowledged that it was a question he himself had had to answer during the candidate selection process, answering “For me personally I have this stress meter. When it gets closer to the deadline, or when we have to rush something out the stress meter gets higher and higher and at the certain period of time I’ll just become irrational sometimes. I may make mistakes in my judgement, and the way I would overcome it is to actually surround myself with people who disagree with myself a lot”, explaining that honest opinions would be preferable to yes-men. He explains that the one thing he’s most proud of is his ability, and fondess, for interacting, making friends, and connecting with people.
However, how does he plan to get student opinions heard even when facing rejection by the higher-ups? Quickly, he responds “What I would try to do is to modify whatever feedback we have and try to fit it into the protocol as much as we can, and talk to the person who provided the feedback, or to the student’s council for that matter, so that everyone can reach an understanding – that no matter what we do, it’s all for the benefit of the school. It’s more of the big picture I would say. Not creating more trouble than what we began with.”
When asked for three words that defined him, he said that he was determined, approachable, and serious. As to what kind of president he would like to be, he said “I want to be seen as the guy who knows what he’s doing. I don’t want to go all out and at the end of the day be lost and trying to re-prioritise everything. I believe in knowing my priorities right from the start, and I think that contributes to being a responsible person as well.” He’s also concerned about welfare, adding that “I would also want to be portrayed as a president who thinks about the welfare of everyone, including himself… I would always do it for the welfare of everyone. I think that’s the most important thing as president, because I’m not only representing myself as an individual, but I’m also representing the whole student council.”
His choice of inspiration is not a little unique – Taylor Swift.
“The reason why I’m so inspired by her is the fact that she has a very intelligent mind. She can go out to be a politician based on the way she speaks and markets herself but she chose to stick by her passion in music and she’s very successful in that aspect. She’s very smart in the way she does things and everything she does she plans it properly to make sure everything goes smoothly in her way. The thing about her is that she’s very independent. At the start of her era she was dancing around in sparkly dresses and sparkling guitars, but now she has changed, and when she looked back she didn’t regret it at all. All those were decisions made by herself. Many people look back on their lives and they see things they regret in the primary school, secondary school, JC and go: “Why couldn’t I have done things better?” But after thinking and pondering over the whole matter I think we should just go on with life, and stop wallowing in self-pity and regret.”
Finally, of course, we get to the all-important question – why should people vote for you?
“Many people say that if you’re not from Cedar or Victoria School it’s very difficult to get in here, but I find it very reassuring that those rumours were fake. It boils down to who I am as a person, and when people place their trust and support in me, it becomes one of the above qualities… I will not be a president with a line between me and VJ population. Even the teachers too; I will not discriminate against them because they’re the staff. If they need any help, I will help them, because they are part of the Victorian family. Another thing is that I am firm. I will not be a person who wavers about, and when I set my mind to do something I will be impartial about it. That’s very important as a leader, and that’s what makes me worth voting for as a presidential nominee.”
Bonus question: What would you do with a small loan of a million dollars? He answers with characteristic pragmatism-
“I would – realistically speaking – set a portion aside for the council to do stuff with (about 800k?) because as a council there are many constrains, so the money would resolve budget constrains for the school and help the council to satisfy the needs of the student population, or even the teachers. I could create a loan system so that Victorians, if they forget or they need money, I would lend it out. Of course I wouldn’t give the money out freely – that would be irresponsible of me – but I would require a payment back. I’d help out anyone I trust, not just Victorians. The thing is, all Victorians are trusted, so it’s no problem!”
Despite his smiling exterior, Yong Kang approached the interview seriously. When asked about past leadership experience, he described how he didn’t have a major leadership role in secondary school, and wanted to step out of his comfort zone – which was why he joined SC.
He does admit to occaisonally having tunnel vision, saying “I tend to get too focused on stuff, and I have a tendency to neglect the surroundings.”
When asked about his point of personal pride, however, he admitted that this was it.
“If you’ve asked me in secondary school whether I would try to run to student council I would say no. I’m not really the kind of person back then to step up my commitments, but after coming to VJC… I feel that this is a very comfortable environment, where you won’t get judged by trying to step out of your comfort zone. This gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and try for student council elections, and for the presidential run.
When asked about how he would take student’s views into accounts given the limitations placed on him by the school admin, he said “It’s all about balance – trying to achieve what the student population wants while taking into consideration the limitations set. Another thing is that you cannot really focus on what the students want but also what the students need as well. Sometimes the students might not have the most objective point of view when they want something. I’m pretty objective in this aspect because I prefer judging things based on logic than emotions.” This is reflected in how he chooses to describe himself; as non-conformist, strong-willed, and pragmatic.
If elected president, he believes in bringing discipline to the student’s council, saying “there’s a certain level of discipline one must portray. I don’t think it’s a matter of you being a role model per se, but it’s me trying get the whole council population to be role models. It won’t work if I’m the only person meeting the certain level people except. If I’m the only person doing that, the image given off is not very good… We’re going to have to establish our motivation for setting an example and have councillors keep their minds on why we started doing this in the first place and maintain a certain level of discipline to portray ourselves as role models.”
Yong Kang is inspired by the previous batch of councillors, commending their adaptibility, teamwork and efficiency, and hopes that the current batch can live up to their legacy. He adds that “as a member of NPCC in his secondary school, I had to plan camps and work together for trainings and stuff. I know how difficult it is to coordinate between different people and make events smooth even when something unexpected happens.”
When pressed with the million dollar question of what differentiates the candidates, Yong Kang freely admits – not much. “At the end of the day, it’s about who the voter feels appeals best to them”.
Oh yes, and the real million dollar question – what would you do with a small loan of a million dollars?
“I guess the first thing is [change] the school furniture. It’s been vandalised and stuff. The environment is very crucial for the school setting because it would affect the learning experience and how you perceive the lessons to be – you’d of course perceive a lesson as more legitimate if the classroom and everything in it is in good comfortable quality.”
Of course – nothing less than stoicism and pragmatism from all four candidates. So, now the question is passed on to you… Who are you voting for?
(No, it’s not what would you do with a million dollars. Let’s face it – that’s not going to happen anytime soon)
Ren Jiaqi, 16A12
Claire Chan, 16A12
Ajay Nair, 15S63