Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., US Embassy Singapore
One of the highest privileges a citizen can have is to serve their country. I am honored to have spent my professional life representing the United States of America, whether in the Navy or as an American diplomat stationed around the world.
These past three years in Singapore have been especially meaningful for me as my mother is originally from Singapore. My parents met during the Vietnam War when my father, who was an Air Force pilot, came to Singapore on vacation. His career took us to Iran, Spain and all over the US. That said, in many ways, I grew up in a Singaporean household albeit in other places around the world.
Being in Singapore has helped me understand the values and experiences that shaped my mother, and I've come to appreciate her even more. Growing up in the US with a parent from a different culture was a special experience. No matter where we were, my mother instilled very Singaporean values in my brother and me including the expectation of being the very best at whatever we did. If I got straight As, she would ask me where the A+s were. She taught me never to be prideful and never to think I had done my best as there was always more I could do. She instilled in me a deep respect for parents, elders and authority. She also taught me to appreciate different ethnicities and cultures, and to be open to discovering the best in others.
Those are the very traits that I admire so much about Singapore today – the diversity, the excellence and the graciousness in how citizens here approach each other and life in general. And the practicality and pragmatism of seeing the world as it is and making the right choices for future generations. The United States and Singapore share the same pragmatism, and we are united in the knowledge that we are stronger if we work together, whether in law enforcement, military cooperation, innovation, or economic growth.
It has been a profound honor for me to lead our team of over 300 US Embassy employees from 29 different US government sections and agencies in deepening our bilateral cooperation across all of these areas. We have a mix of Americans, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Filipinos, Indians and even a colleague from New Zealand, but each of us is working together to represent the best of the United States in how we interact with each other and with our counterparts throughout Singapore. I love that we have succeeded in building a team that feels more like a family with deep mutual respect and shared objectives. I will definitely miss each of them very much as I move on to my next assignment.
I will also miss the many friends that I have made in the Singapore government, civil society, the other Embassies and US private sector. It has been a privilege to work with all of these diverse partners to identify ways in which we can improve lives — not only in our two countries, but across the ASEAN region. Forty percent of my staff has regional responsibilities, as do many of the US businesses headquartered in Singapore. The United States has a long history of engagement in Southeast Asia, with American traders first arriving to the region in the early 1800s. We are committed to remaining engaged both economically and militarily in the Indo-Pacific region for the next 200 years and beyond.
My views on leadership stem from my four years serving in the US Navy. There are two things about the military – it teaches you how to follow and how to lead. It taught me to be a good leader and to be undaunted by any task. Leadership is not just looking at the big picture, but also caring about each individual and letting them know why they’re important to the mission. I may be the public face of the Embassy, but we have more than 300 representatives of the United States working at the US Embassy in Singapore. Everybody matters.
I will miss my colleagues and what we have achieved. I will also miss our Deepavali, Chinese New Year and Hari Raya celebrations. And all of the delicious food – from satay to chicken rice, from dosai to fish curry, from goreng pisang to appam. And mangosteen, which I have to admit I prefer to durian.
I thank my husband and my two girls for being part of this amazing adventure. We are grateful to the Singapore American School for the education my daughters received. We have loved visiting Indonesia, Thailand, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Vietnam. And we have appreciated the lasting friendships that each of us has made. My family and I leave knowing that Singapore will always have a special place in our hearts.