Whatever you can, wherever you can: An interview with MP Mr Darryl David

(photo courtesy of Darryl David)

” Do whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can. ”

Darryl David, 48, is the Member of Parliament and Grassroots Adviser for Ang Mo Kio Group Representative Constituency (GRC).  He was elected to the 13th Parliament of Singapore on 11th September 2015 and is the Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Culture, Community & Youth.  He also sits on the GPCs for Communications & Information and Social & Family Development.

1. Share with us the school activities you took part in while studying English literature in the faculty of arts and social sciences (FASS) at NUS.

I was very sporty and represented FASS in football at the inter faculty games for two years. It was a good experience as the arts faculty traditionally has a very strong team and we had a lot of fun training together. Unlike myself, most of my soccer mates stayed on campus in the halls. I would often hang out with them in their halls.

As we had a pretty talented team, we were favourites for most years.

I fondly remember how other teams would don full soccer jersey kits for the games, while the FASS team did otherwise— putting in minimal effort towards our appearances. We’d turn up in different coloured shorts and socks to play the games. Nonetheless, we always beat the other teams. We were really blessed with good talents!

Looking back, this is a good and endearing memory of taking part in school activities then.

During my time in university, there were no student exchange programmes. I was very involved with activities outside of school, and was also involved in a lot of theatre work and media work. It was healthy to balance school work with a variety of other activities.

That gives you a kind of true holistic education, as my point of view is that education is not just something you learn in the classroom, tutorial room or lecture theatre but is also outside of that.  You can learn lessons outside your classroom within your school environment by getting involved in CCAs such as the various societies and clubs.

All these things shape you and grow you as a person, and this contributes to that kind of holistic individual that would be able to function most effectively in the 21st century.

I got involved in theatre at a very young age. I was part of the part of the original cast of Beauty World the musical. It was an eye-opening experience as I have never been really involved in much theatre before. I was glad that I went for the auditions and got selected to be part of the chorus eventually.

It was amazing having a chance to work with veterans such as Dick Lee, Ivan Heng, Tan Kheng Hua, Ong Keng Sen and Koh Chieng Mun.

While most of my friends were preparing for prelims and A-levels then, I was getting an alternative education outside of the classrooms.

That opened my eyes to the value of doing things beyond school that furnish life experiences, compared to just sitting and cramming for exams like what my other peers were doing. Instead, I was thinking about opening night, the musical run, and what I can do next.

This whole experience shaped me and shaped my approach towards life. It’s not that school work or academics aren’t important, but they should complement your whole life. If you are not trying new things outside of the walls, you’d probably miss out on a lot in life. A balance has got to be struck well. Be responsible for your studies and know that there is so much of life to be lived as well.

Try not to be too obsessed with grades. Do what you have to do and remember that there is so much of life to be lived! I can’t emphasise this enough.

The author Mark Twain said, “Never let school interfere with your education”. It is a profound statement and I adopted the same principles for my involvement in media. The SEA games were held in 1993 when I was in NUS, during one of my undergraduate years. I was a great sports fan and was volunteering for the media team for the SEA games. I asked to audition to be on camera then as there was a programme called World of Sports”, and the next thing I know at 22 years old, I went live on TV for the first time.

I was extremely involved in the media scene during my university years. In 1994, I was given the opportunity to cover sports in Hiroshima for about 10 days.

If you manage your school work well, you can do multiple things at the same time and still excel on different fronts. It’s possible.

2. What is the greatest takeaway from your education life?

Two things. The first thing is where Mark Twain said to never let school interfere with your education. I realised that education is a broad concept, and education is far more than what it is. It is more than schooling and learning, and it can come from so many places. We are constantly being educated in our lives.

I am very big on having a breadth of education, in terms of making you into a completer and more holistic person.

I take the approach that having a breadth of education across different disciplines really shapes you into a more wholesome person.

3. Why did you choose to pursue a Master in Public Administration in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (MPA), a Master in Business Administration (MBA) at Nanyang Business School?

I chose to do Business because I saw the strength of a business degree. It is very industry-based in terms of practicality and application. The practical application was very much grounded in learning things like marketing which is very much involved in your daily life, and organisational behaviour, which studies the psyche of organisation and human behaviour. I was also learning financial management which is basically understanding how money works, management and financial accounting, the nuts and bolts of any accounting system, and management accounting. I think if you are going to move into management, these are essential skills to know, as these are linked to what goes on in the real world, in industries.

Compared to business, liberal arts may be more abstract and not easy to draw that link to something actual or something that is happening in the society or an industry, but I realised that everything you learnt you see it happening around you in your everyday surroundings. Business thus complemented my education in liberal arts.

I picked up a Masters in Public Policy to better understand the theories and philosophies behind public administration. The course benefited me tremendously and allowed me to better understand the community, such that I was able to contribute to the community.

4. Growing up, did you have a role model you looked up to?

I have two role models, my grandmother and mother. My grandmother had six children and she raised them on her own. In fact, I too was raised by her. She instilled a lot of values in me like discipline, the concept of hard work and grit, sheer grit. Every night before I go to school, she would remind me to hang my uniform on the window the night before. I still do that today, (hang up my clothes for the next day), which was ingrained in me since young. I like to be prepared as well.

My mom was divorced and raised us by herself.

She is a very creative person, and she founded the food magazine Wine and Dine. She had a great career in marketing communications. She is truly a remarkably creative woman. She always had great concepts and is an unfailingly kind and giving person. She also has a certain work ethic, and she likes to take her work very seriously.

5. Share with us a quote you live by.

The quote “Do whatever you can, whenever you can, wherever you can” encapsulates my approach towards community work. Simply because, you don’t have to fly off to a village beyond our shores to impact lives and others. No act is too small.

We should always try to do something beyond us and ourselves. Don’t be too focused in your work and life that you forget that we are also a part of our community. Start small and do whatever you can, whenever you can.

The second quote it the one by Mark Twain, “Never let school interfere with your education”, as mentioned above.

Another quote is Margot Fonteyn’s, “I realised very early on the difference between taking one’s work seriously and one’s self seriously”. The first is imperative, and the second is disastrous.

“Take your work seriously, but never yourself”.

These three pretty much sum it up.

Recently, a monk shared with me that if you don’t have money to contribute to a good cause, or don’t have time or effort to contribute, just speak good words and be constructive.

We should always be constructive, build things or build people. It does not benefit society or anyone if we are vicious with comments. The condemnatory remarks are only destructive for society. On the contrary, we should welcome constructive dialogue and criticism. It is usually easier to speak broad, sweeping and cutting comments but more difficult to be constructive.

6. What are some of the causes you are passionate about and fighting for the ground (your residents)?

Education. I am always very passionate about education and its system.

As a former educator it is extremely amazing and fantastic to see how, as a small nation, we are able to punch above our weight when we have no natural resources. Our people are our only resource. Helping to shape that resource is education, and the system. As the world evolves, things change. We have to let our education system evolve organically. There are so many tracks now —ITE, Poly, specialised schools like SST, LASALLE, SOTA, etc.

I am passionate to see how education is evolving to meet the needs of the people and ensure our people continue to be trained to be relevant in the world. More so at the global level as the borders are so open in the digital world today, and we should always be relevant to the world.

Other contributing factors that are equally important are the collaborators like the parliamentarians, educators, parents, employers, political office holders, students, civil servants, and many other stakeholders. How we can move and shape our education masterplan and blueprint such that we are able to prepare our people for what is coming up next, and how we can enhance certain policies for young families, or families with young children, and linking young families with education, or early childhood education for that matter.

Culture and sports are important to me as well.

7. How has your journey as a Member of Parliament been so far? Share with us some of your takeaways from being a parliamentarian.

I find what I am doing meaningful. The journey has been meaningful. It has also been fulfilling and physical, mentally and emotionally tiring because of the hours we put in. But I get energised and motivated knowing that I am making a positive impact on the lives of people, and that’s my way of contributing to our community and society. Whether it’s at the Meet-the-People Session or elsewhere, I find joy when my residents go away saying thank you for listening to me, even if I can’t solve the problem. It is not just about being there to listen, but also showing support and be that hope that they need. These make an impact.

I take it upon myself to be able to communicate to them that their situation may be a difficult or challenging one during the Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS). Instead of brushing them off, I consciously make it a point that I will support and help them but at the same time explain the real and honest reasons why they might have problems getting these appeals through.

8. Where do you see yourself five to ten years down the road?

I just started the journey in the political sphere, but I hope that I am able to continue as much as I can, to build on the work we have done so far, together with my volunteers and community partners. I am blessed with a team of excellent volunteers, and we have strong patrons who support us financially. I hope to have the opportunity to build on the good work moving forward. I can’t do it all by myself alone.

9. What other upcoming projects can we expect from you?

There is nothing major, but my approach is that you don’t necessarily have to have a big bang projects to have an impact on the community. Do what you are doing well and continue to provide that level of service and support to the community.

10. What advice do you have for young undergraduates who are still looking for their meaning, purpose, calling in life?

Never let school interfere with education, it’s that straightforward.


More about Darryl David

In his professional role, Darryl is the Chief Executive Officer of St Joseph’s Institution International (SJII), one of Singapore’s premier international schools.  Darryl joined SJII in 2017 after spending more than 16 years in Temasek Polytechnic, where his last-held position was the Deputy Director for academic curriculum and marketing communications at the School of Design.

With 22 years of experience in the media and communications industry, Darryl is also known for his work as a sportscaster and presenter for regional broadcaster ESPN Star Sports and Singapore’s MediaCorp TV.

In addition to his broadcast experience, Darryl was also a much sought-after event consultant and master-of-ceremonies, and worked on more than 300 events for such high-profile corporate clients as Bentley, Capitaland, Reuters, Visa and the Singapore Tourism Board, to name a few. Guests-of-Honour at these events have ranged from international luminaries such as John Travolta and Lewis Hamilton to highly-respected political leaders such as Lee Kuan Yew.

Darryl believes strongly in giving back to society and began his community work as a District Councilor with the North-East Community Development Council (CDC) in 2009.  He has also done voluntary work for the Red Cross, the Terry Fox Run for Hope, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and other community groups and charities.

He is currently active as a board member of the 14th National Youth Council and is Vice-Chairman of the Ang Mo Kio Town Council.  He is a Vice-Chairman of the Central Singapore CDC and was a Vice-Chairman on the Ang Mo Kio-Hougang’s Citizen’s Consultative Committee (CCC).

After completing his early education at St Michael’s School, Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College, Darryl went on to obtain a B.A. (Hons) in English Literature from the National University of Singapore.  He also holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and has an MBA from Nanyang Technological University.

Born in Singapore of Indian and Chinese parentage, Darryl speaks English, Mandarin and conversational Hokkien and loves going to the gym, watching movies, swimming and reading.  He is married with two children aged ten and seven, and treasures every moment that he has with his family.



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