Comedian Jason Leong: Racial diversity and harmony are gifts we take for granted
Editor: Chia Han Keong
Mon, 18 July 2022 at 9:44 am
Doctor-turned-comedian Jason Leong at the Global Youth Leaders' Summit in Singapore. (PHOTO: GYLS)
RACIAL diversity, tolerance and harmony in Malaysia and Singapore are gifts in which are often taken for granted, says popular stand-up comedian Dr Jason Leong.
The former doctor was speaking at the 14th edition of the Global Youth Leaders’ Summit on Sunday (17 July), as he related how humour can go a long way to bridge social and cultural differences, and help youths around the world celebrate their uniqueness rather than be divided in their differences.
"Malaysia and Singapore have one thing in common; Our racial diversity, tolerance and harmony. It is a gift which we often take for granted," said Dr Leong, whose accolades include a win at the 7th International Hong Kong Comedy Competition and having his own Netflix special.
"In my profession and experience, comedy is a thread which binds the different racial fabrics together. At comedy shows, more often than not, people of different backgrounds all laugh together."
The Malaysian comedian went on to use humorous examples from his life to help the summit participants - which consisted of more than 500 international youth leaders from over 30 countries - see the lighter side of potentially problematic issues.
Focus on need for social cohesion despite differences
This year's summit - which was held in a hybrid setting with the majority of participants joining online - focused on racial and religious diversity among youth communities, as well as social cohesion despite racial and language differences.
A recent poll by Singapore's National Youth Council (NYC) found that two-thirds of youths have personally experienced or witnessed racial discrimination, with experiences differing for different races. This highlights the need to continue seeking common ground among the difference racial backgrounds of youths in the region.
Singapore's Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang, who was the guest-of-honour of the summit, said in her opening speech, "I am happy that we can all come together in this manner to learn, unlearn, relearn about leadership, cohesiveness and giving.
"Regardless of where we came from, there are so many things we share in common.”
Helping youths overcome mental-health challenges
Another key topic in the summit is on helping youths overcome mental-health challenges. A national study in Singapore in May, involving 3,336 young people aged 11 to 18, found that one in three youths reported internalising mental health symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and loneliness.
Harriet Turk, a motivational speaker and life coach, shared the need for youths to understand their value and rise up to challenges by focusing on their own strengths.
“My message to youths is that they know that they are valuable, life is tough and that they should find and own their brilliance. So often we watch others and compare ourselves with them, rather than developing our own talents and skills.” she said.
The summit - which was organised by charity organisation Character and Leadership Academy - also saw the leaders taking part in bowling to raise funds for #HappYouth, a mental health initiative to support fellow youths who are experiencing depression or having suicidal thoughts. The event eventually accumulated over S$10,000 in pledged donations.
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