In 1957, the year we gained independence, as a 15-year-old Fifth Former, I took part in an inter-school prefects’ oratorical contest, together with Fifth and Sixth Formers from other leading English schools in Kuala Lumpur.
Leadership qualities such as wisdom, integrity, faith and steadfastness have stood the test of time.
I was privileged to win the contest! The then education minister, Mohd Khir Johari (later Datuk and Tan Sri), who was our guest, said that he would provide a copy of that winning speech to his cabinet colleagues, since “it contained very good values which a real leader must have”.
A renowned American churchman and educator, Doane authored and delivered many noteworthy discourses and speeches on the essence of wisdom, integrity, faith and steadfastness, all qualities that those who lead must possess and cultivate and which have stood the test of time.
Given the strong relevance today and for all time, of that speech, I reproduce it below: “The men to make a state must be intelligent men. I do not mean that they must know that two and two make four; or that six per cent a year is half per cent a month.
The intelligence which a state demands will take a higher and a wider range. Its study will be man. It will first know itself. What else can govern men? Who else can know the men to govern men? “The right of suffrage is a serious thing. It calls for wisdom, and discretion, and intelligence of no ordinary standard. It affects the interests of all the nation. Who will exercise it blindly? Who will exercise it passionately? Who as a sycophant or a tool? How many do!
These are not the men to make a state. “The men to make a state must be honest men. I do not mean men that would never steal. I do not mean men that would scorn to cheat in making change.
I mean men with a single face. I mean men with a single eye. I mean men with a single tongue. I mean men that always consider what is right, and do it at whatever cost.
I mean men whom no king on earth can buy. Men that are in the market for the highest bidder; men that make politics their trade, and look to office for a living; men that will crawl, where they cannot climb; these are not the men to make a state.
“The men to make a state must be brave men. I do not mean men that pick a quarrel. I do not mean men that carry dirks. I mean men that walk with open face and unprotected breast. I mean the men that do, but do not talk.
“I mean the men that dare to stand alone. I mean the men that are afraid to kill, but not afraid to die. The man that calls hard names and uses threats; the man that stabs in secret, with his tongue or his pen; the man that moves a mob to deeds of violence and self-destruction; the man that freely offers his last drop of blood, but never sheds the first; these are not the men to make a state.
“The men to make a state are made by faith. A man that has no faith is so much flesh; his heart a muscle, nothing more. He lives. So does a clam. Both die. Such men can never make a state. There must be faith, which furnishes the fulcrum Archimedes could not find for the long lever that should move the world.
“There must be faith that can lay hold on heaven, and let the earth swing from beneath it, if God will. There must be faith that can afford to sink the present in the future. This is the way that men are made, to make a state.
“The men to make a state are made by self-denial. An acorn has been loosened from the oak bough some autumnal morning by a squirrel’s foot. It finds a nest in some rude cleft of an old granite rock, where there is scarcely earth to cover it. It asks no favour and gives none.
“It grapples with the rock. It crowds up toward the sun. It is an oak. It has been 70 years an oak. It will be an oak for seven times 70 years more, that old, hardy, storm-stayed, and storm strengthened oak. So are the men made that will make a state.”