Ong Ye Kung’s Speech on ‘What Do I Want to be when I Grow Up’ Won the Internet With Meaningful Answers


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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’m sure all of us have heard this question countless times from family members, teachers and even strangers.

Some of us might say that we want to become an astronaut, while others might say they aspire to be a professional bed and mattress tester.

However, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung’s answer to this question might have you rethinking your grand plans for the future.

“What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?”

During his speech to the graduands of NUS High School’s Class of 2022, Mr Ong revealed that this question has guided him as he pondered the next steps in life.

The video was shared on his TikTok account on 2 December 2022 and has since garnered 6,958 likes and 3,629 shares.

In fact, it all began when he encountered the question for the first time as a five-year-old.

Family members had asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and as someone who loved to draw, he said that he wanted to be an artist.

As he entered Junior College and realized that he was good at mathematics and science, he encountered the question again.

“Well, we are studying math, we are studying physics, so I guess I’ll be an engineer,” said Mr Ong.

Once he had secured a scholarship, graduated and finished National Service, the recurring question came up yet again.

This time, he decided that he would be a Civil Servant.

“I knew I needed balance”

The fourth time he encountered the question was during a gathering with fellow colleagues, when he was 30 years old.

At first, he was stumped, but he quickly realized that he was “only 30” and still growing up.

That was when he truly started to ponder the question seriously.

“My work is important to me. I enjoy working for the government doing things that make life better for Singaporeans,” said Mr Ong.

He then thought about his wife and newborn and an incident that had occurred.

He explained, “My work took me away from Singapore a lot. I recalled how I returned home from Washington DC one Christmas Eve and my baby girl did not want me to carry her and that was heartbreaking. So, I knew I needed balance.”

He then asked himself the question again and here are his answers:

  1. A reformer of Public Service
  2. A good husband
  3. A loving father
  4. A friend to my children

For the first time, Mr Ong realized that his answer was multi-dimensional.

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At 53 years old, Mr Ong says that the difference between him now and when he was younger is that he no longer waits for others to ask him what he wants to be when he grows up.

Instead, he constantly asks himself that question.

Finally, Mr Ong reminds us not to sweat the small things, lament on things that have already happened or things that we cannot change.

“I realize happiness is not something that happens to us. We can choose to be happy. It is not just about what career you will choose or occupation you will take on. It is about who you want to be. What are the big rocks in your lives that are important to you. How you want to juggle them. What choices you want to make. That question takes on different meanings at different stages of our lives. Our answers evolve with experience and our changing perspectives.”

His advice to the 18-year-olds? Start pondering that question.

He goes on to tell the graduands that if life is a marathon, they are not at the 10km, 5km or 2km mark. Instead, they are only training and warming up for the marathon.

He ends the speech reminding the graduands to train and warm up properly and to enjoy the marathon.


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The Internet Is Wowed

In response, many users left comments commending his speech.

Image: TikTok (Ong Ye Kung)
Image: TikTok (Ong Ye Kung)

Some even went so far as to comment on his looks.

Image: TikTok (Ong Ye Kung)

So.. Do you still want to be a professional bed and mattress tester?

Watch the full video here:

@ongyekung“What do I want to be when I grow up?” Over the years, this question has guided me as I pondered my next steps in life. I shared this with graduands of NUS High School’s Class of 2022.♬ original sound – Ye Kung Ong


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Featured Image: TikTok (Ong Ye Kung)


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