When I was 18 I was misquoted in the press.
This was when Hwachong was being renamed Hwa Chong Institution. There was an uproar amongst Hwa Chong Junior College alumni who felt this erased their inclusion in the alumni. The people from Chinese High were not too happy either. And nobody liked the word “Institution”.
I was quoted as saying “It looks like we’re trying to copy RI”
The worst possible thing anyone could be quoted as saying because RI is Raffles Institution, our rival high school.
But which is what everybody was thinking.
The next day I’m summoned to the principal’s office.
“Hello Judith,” says the principal.
“I was misquoted.”
“We know. I know our Judith wouldn’t say anything so stupid.”
“Well, thanks. But I want to help you. Give me two days and I’ll draft a petition.”
I go back and draft a petition suggesting that “Hwa Chong Institution” be an umbrella term for “Hwa Chong Junior College” and “The Chinese High School”, then I get my classmate, best friend and collaborator to translate it into excellent Chinese.
Then I get as many other students to sign the proposal as possible.
“You know he’s just using you, right?” asks my friend.
I shrug. “I know he’s using me. I’m using him too,” I say.
“OK just so you know.”
I present the bilingual edition of the proposal to the principal.
“This is interesting. What’s an umbrella term?”
“It means it’s an institution that incorporates two older institutions.”
“We’ll forward this to the board of directors,” says the principal.
“Also, I didn’t know your Chinese was so good.”
I bite back the name of my collaborator. He didn’t want to sign the petition.
He doesn’t have any power. I don’t have any power, even less than he does. The only people with power are the board of directors. Maybe even only the Chairman of the board.
I never hear about this issue again, but sure enough, the next time they rename the gate, that’s what it says,
Hwa Chong Institution
Hwa Chong Junior College and The Chinese High School
Like most compromises, nobody is happy, nobody got exactly what they wanted, and nobody feels particularly satisfied.
It also didn’t last. The gate has since been changed again. It just says Hwa Chong Institution now.
But I do have this story.