On the 13th of April, VJC hosted its annual TEDx talk in the Living Room above the Performance Theatre. In collaboration with the SpeakOut club, 4 distinguished speakers were presented, each speaking on a different topic relating to each and every one of us as individuals. The event drew an audience of roughly 40 individuals, with some of the attendees coming from Yishun Junior College. The anticipation of what was to come as palpable, one of the attendees who declined to be named said, “I’m actually pretty excited for this event, I mean I’ve heard about TED talks so i’m looking forward as to what we’re going to see”.

To put simply, TEDx talks are independently-organised TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) events presented for a local audience. Ajay Nair, member of VJC Speakout and one of the student organisers of the event, puts it simply – “TED and TEDx events are about sharing ideas. So it’s about inviting people who are local leaders or innovators to come down and share ideas they have.”

2016 marks the 5th consecutive year since the first TEDx talk in VJC in 2012, and our school remains to be the only government Junior College to have applied for and obtained the TEDx licence. This is a source of pride and heritage for many batches of Speakout thus far.

”We thought the whole purpose of Speakout organising this event is so that students from VJC as well as people from other JCs can come down and hear about these new and interesting ideas that the speakers have to present”, he continued.

Many speakers were invited for the TEDx@The Living Room, including persons from high positions such as ministers and government officials, but few could make it on a working day afternoon. Out of all those contacted, those who are able to make it are the youth and community leaders, amongst which are Nominated Singaporean-of-the-Year Ben Cheong and ex-Victorian Ci En, who graduated from VJC in 2013 and suffers from genetic dwarfism.

“I think that would be better than inviting more respected and older people because in this way it allows us to better connect with our audience, which is the youth in VJC”, Ajay added as an afterthought.

It is certainly an achievement for speakout to retain the TEDx label since 2012, because parties intending to do so must renew the TED licence every year. Some of the topics discussed during the skype interview include a proposal of the event, a timeline of what’s going on, profiles of all the speakers that are coming down, and the materials of their speeches.

Ajay explained that this is because “TED strictly regulates that the speeches have to be about new ideas, because that’s what the TED brand is all about… not really looking for inspirational or run of the mill things. We also had to tell them about the locations or the reasons for hosting the event or what our objectives are.”

An interview with the teacher-in-charge of speakout – Mr Liew, sheds some light about this process – “We had to go through a lot of processes and procedures. This year, one of the procedures we had to go through was a skype interview with the US representatives from TEDx. Live interview with the student president. She had to answer all the questions and all the issues regarding rules and regulations. I think they wanted to ensure that we follow all the requirements of TED, and fulfil all their requirements.”

Mr Liew also commented on the intensity of planning for the TEDx talk – “We started this TED planning all the way from November last year. It’s a long process.”

“Looking forward, maybe we could engage more students in the selection of speakers. We find that the selection of speakers is always very challenging. Some of them may not be free to come – there are so many to choose from so we struggle to locate good speakers.”

When asked about what could be done better for the future, he said – “I was thinking maybe in the upcoming year we could engage in a wider population of speakers in searching for speakers Maybe we could send out a survey form to the students asking who would they want to hear it from. Then we could have a sense of understanding of what the students want to hear from the speakers.”

Those interested to view the entire TEDx talk can visit TED.com, which will be up sometime in May or June.

The 4 Speakers

Ben Cheong
Managing Director of Miracle Concept.

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(Mr Cheong receiving a token of appreciation from the chairman of SpeakOut, Tan Yoong San)


After his first visit to Thailand 7 years ago, he was inspired to turn to charity. Since then, his foundation, Magical Lights, has built more than 15 schools for the underprivileged in Myanmar, helping the poor and displaced in Thailand while providing charity to victims of natural disasters in the region as well. With a stylishly unkempt hairdo and a ready smile, Ben Cheong comes across as a friendly and affable individual. He is an empathetic man whose lined face betrays a simple wisdom he shared with us, “I am not a judge and I do not pretend to be one”. His presentation shared with us some of the memorable, and even subversive experiences he had. How children, destitute and homeless had the strength and spirit to remain unbroken and smile. He showed us how the child labour in developing countries was a complex problem that was greater than merely western ethics and morals; the children with no families and support only had the factories they were employed in to feed them. “Will bringing them out, save them?”

Zhang Tianjun
Managing Director of Mercy Relief

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(Ms Zhang delivering her speech)

Miss Zhang always knew she wanted to do charity and help those who were desperately in need, but she never could decide on which one to start with. This was until 2009 when she was invited to a bicycle race in Timor Leste with 3 other friends. Witnessing the struggles of the young nation, she and her friends resolved to help them and raised some $44,500 for HIAM Health, a women’s and children’s malnutrition centre. A slender young lady, she was certainly popular with the girls who flocked around her asking more about her comically unbelievable past. Like so many of us, Zhang Tianjun faced the problem of an uncertain future. The best piece of advice, and one of the key messages of her presentation was. “Life is not going the path set for you, it is the choice we make”.

Jessica Chai

Creator of ShanSwan.com

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(Ms Chai discussing storytelling)

Jessica Chai is the Champion for Humorous & International Speeches, achieving 5 Gold Awards, which are but a few of the numerous public speaking accolades she has won. With a well rehearsed and delivered speech, she quickly got on to explaining “The art of Storytelling”. Miss Chai is a staunch believer that Technology will help bring the stories of different people together as “innovation brings about the power of relations”. All great leaders and innovators were great storytellers, for in every idea and product they created; was a story of despair, triumph and success. Everyone has the ability to become a good storyteller because according to her “Storytelling is the essence of who we are”

Ci En Lee

Student in SMU and Ex-Victorian

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(“Life is short, and so am I” ~ Ci En)

Graduating from the 2013 batch, Ci En is a shining example of the indomitable human spirit. Unafraid and confident, Ci Ens’ speech was funny yet motivational at the same time. “Life is short, and so am I” this short phrase summarizes his philosophy on life; his entire approach to life, actually. Hidden in the folds of a comedically presented life story were gems of wisdom. Having being judged since he was young, Ci En learned that his disabilities did not make him any less of a human. “Even if you meet difficulties, that is not the value of yourself!” he says.

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(Students at the event)

The event was, for all intents and purposes, a success. The whole affair was conducted without any major delays or hitches, the speakers presented were all of great calibre, and spoke on topics that were of great importances. Speakers aside, some of the other aspects fell slightly short of our expectations. The two emcees tried their best, but were clearly nervous, though it’s certainly no small task to speak before an audience and distinguished guests.

Furthermore, the event did not seem to generate as much hype or interest as it should have. A few words with one of the Yishun JC students revealed some surprise, for they themselves were surprised as to how little people actually came. With the brand name being rather established and strong, one would have expected a higher turnout, and we’re surprised so few Victorians took the chance to attend a real life TED talk The J1s who couldn’t make it this time should certainly not miss out on the chance to attend next year.

Nevertheless, everyone surveyed agrees that this event was a success. Each of the speakers brought to the table a variety and diversity of topics as well as speaking styles. Much can be learned from this event, and from the audience’s positive reaction, we are not the only ones that wishes for more of these events to take place in the future.

(Photo Credits: Photosoc)

Derek Lee, 16A15

Ren Jiaqi, 16A12

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