WHAT is patriotism? We can define it as love and respect for our homeland.
It is pride in one’s country that drives people to work hard for the development of the nation, protect its heritage and culture, and safeguard the country from being destroyed by external or internal forces.
Former United States politician Adlai Stevenson once said: “Patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Patriotism implies a sense of belonging that binds people together. It is symbolised by flying the flag and respecting the national anthem.
Under the Jalur Gemilang, Malaysia attained independence and we built our lives harmoniously.
But patriotism comes in various forms. When we speak up and defend our country, it is a patriotic act. When we refrain from committing vandalism on public property or littering in public places, we are being patriotic.
When we contribute to making our community free from crime or protecting and preserving our environment, we are being patriotic.
Being patriotic also means contributing one’s views and opinions to areas that can bring good to the country. It is a right and responsibility of Malaysians to want a better Malaysia.
Patriotism should be instilled from childhood because when children love their homeland, they will grow up appreciating their heritage, diversity and history.
Patriotism can be instilled in students through awareness, education and knowledge.
The education system should inculcate pride and belonging to the nation in students. Only through a sense of belonging can Malaysia’s younger generation be moulded into responsible and mature citizens as well as future leaders.
The younger generation must be made aware of the importance of unity as it is the cornerstone of the nation’s success. It is imperative that they forge closer relations despite differences in race, culture and religion.
Fostering unity should begin in schools where efforts can be made to instil interracial harmony, unity and peace in students.
Principals and teachers need to be creative to get students to participate in activities that boost racial integration. They must encourage students to understand one another better.
Parents need to cultivate and practise positive values to inspire their children to emulate good behaviour.
Values such as honesty, integrity, tolerance, diligence, fairness, respect for elders and civic consciousness must be upheld.
After 62 years of independence, Malaysians should be more united as we share the same dreams and aspirations for a better Malaysia.
We should identify ourselves first as Malaysians. I have always believed that to be Malaysian does not make a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban.
History has proven that Malaysia was able to overcome challenges if the people are united.
Our diversity is our strength and it is the recipe for achieving development and socio-economic progress.
We should be mindful that our goal is not only to make Malaysia an industrialised nation, but also to ensure it is developed in all aspects.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Trustee, Malaysia Unity Foundation