Singapore’s National Gallery was literally thrumming with energy on Sunday—not only because of Formula 1 Grand Prix race cars whizzing past, but also because some of the world’s most impactful people were gathering for the second TIME100 Impact Awards in the country.
Over 200 people from various fields gathered at the gallery to celebrate the five recipients of TIME100 Impact Awards. This year’s awardees are actor Ke Huy Quan, K-pop idol and mental health advocate Eric Nam, Kenyan climate activist and the founder of Green Generation Initiative Elizabeth Wathuti, Bollywood legend and activist Ayushmann Khurrana, and Iraqi-American women’s rights activist Zainab Salbi.
The 2023 TIME100 Leadership Forum and TIME100 Impact Awards in Singapore was developed in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board and is presented by signature partner Mastercard and knowledge partner McKinsey & Company.
Read the full speeches of the TIME100 Impact Award honorees here:
Ke Huy Quan: “Change doesn’t happen in a day”
First off, I gotta say I love this award. I’m so, so happy. Thank you so much to TIME for this amazing, amazing honor tonight.
Actors tell stories through characters they bring to life on screen. So it’s truly, truly moving to be recognized for the impact my own story has made.
Honestly, all this still feels like it can’t really be happening. I spent so many years struggling to find work: going to meetings, hoping to convince producers and filmmakers to give me a chance—to give me a job, and oftentimes wondering why I never got the call – and what I could have done differently. Let me tell you, it’s not a good feeling, OK. It’s hard to chase a dream when it feels like it might be slipping away.
So the idea that one day I’d be called an inspiration is more than I could have ever hoped for. I admit—I still have moments of doubt, I still wonder if I deserve all of this. Then I meet someone who has been affected by my story, and I just feel blessed.
All these struggles that I had was worth it if it inspired just one person, and I couldn’t be more thankful that it has reached so many. I’ve had people stop me on the street with tears in their eyes, telling me that I helped them through a difficult time. That I helped keep them going. That means so much to me, because there were many, many times in my life where I needed that exact same encouragement and inspiration. And all I can tell them is that I was them. I was them. I know what they’re going through.
You know, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in the film industry, you’re an activist or athlete, a school teacher—or even if you’re just dreaming of a better job or a better life. Whatever you’re fighting for, please remember: change doesn’t happen in a day. Sometimes it takes more than 20 years.
The Oscars really changed everything for me. Doors opened that I never thought I’d be able to walk through. I didn’t have to go to a meeting to win a job—filmmakers were looking to work with me. Can you believe that? Me, they were looking to work with me. That’s incredible.
And tonight, another door has opened. I am so honored to be part of a community of people who are doing just great and amazing things to help our world.
I want to continue to be an inspiration. I want to open those doors for other people. I cannot believe the journey I am on and I want to bring as many people as I can along with me.
This hasn’t been a happy ending to my story—this has been a happy new beginning. And just like all of you,I cannot wait to see where it goes next.
Elizabeth Wathuti: “Embrace the potential of Africa’s youth”
Thank you all so much and much greetings from Kenya: the land of vast wildlife, landscapes, and the greatest marathoners.
This is a timely and timeless moment, and I want to thank TIME for this honor.
I am Elizabeth Wathuti, an environmentalist and the founder of the Green Generation Initiative. I also serve as the youngest Commissioner of the Nairobi Rivers Commission in Kenya and lead the Wangari Maathai Foundation’s Youth Hub.
I am profoundly honored to accept the TIME Impact Award here in Singapore. And as a young person from Kenya, this recognition for me is a powerful affirmation of the incredible potential within Africa’s youth.
I draw my inspiration from the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wangari Maathai, whose tireless efforts in environmental conservation continue to inspire me every day. And also, nature has always been my guide and sanctuary.
This award is not just about me; it’s a spotlight on the energy, innovation, and resilience of a generation that is determined to shape a brighter future for our communities and our planet. And together, we are rewriting the narrative, proving that young voices are not just the future but the driving force of change here and right now in this world. And I carry the dreams of countless young Africans fighting to make a difference, and I urge you to also embrace the incredible potential within Africa’s youth as architects of the world we wish to see.
I’m coming here from the just concluded Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, which was a significant summit organized under the leadership of Kenya’s President His Excellency President Dr. William Ruto, and also the African Union. And this was organized to shape Africa’s green growth agenda and narrative for global solutions. And the summit indeed put young people at the center.
And I want to thank and appreciate the African Youth Climate Assembly secretariat who also worked with me to ensure that the voices of young Africans are not left out in the climate decision-making frameworks.
And just before I take my seat, I want to express my deepest gratitude to TIME and all of the people who have supported me. My mom, who has been my greatest champion, and my family, my team at the Green Generation Initiative, the Wangari Mathai Foundation, my lovely friends and family, Lumumba, who is right here with me today, and all the people who keep on supporting me in all ways. And above all, I’m grateful to God for this.
Thank you so much, Singapore, and thank you all for believing in the power of youth and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Together, we can change the course of history.
Eric Nam: “Mental health is at the beginning and end of everything”
Wow this is pretty surreal.
It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to be here accepting this prestigious award alongside, and in the footsteps, of some of the most impactful, incredible, inspiring humans on this planet.
A little over 10 years ago, I moved to Korea to try my hand at entertainment.
I quit what was to be a respectable strategic consulting job in New York to become a “singer,” much to the absolute horror of my parents. I was nervous, but elated to trade excel sheets and the corporate grind for music videos, albums, concerts and TV shows all around the world.
However, building a career in entertainment has been anything but easy. It has been a road full of jarring surprises—with the highest of highs, like this, but also some of the lowest of lows.
Earlier on in my career, when I was asked about getting help for anxiety, panic attacks and forms of depression, I was told that I would risk and damage my flourishing career. The lack of professional support and care ultimately manifested in painful ailments that left me in a vicious cycle of both poor physical and mental health.
Fast forward to today, and I am receiving a TIME100 Impact Award—which is pretty wild—for being open and honest about something that I believe we can all be open and honest about: our mental health.
Mental health is at the beginning and is at the end of everything that we are. It affects every single person on this planet. It affects how we see ourselves, how and present ourselves, and thus how we build careers and our relationships. Mental health affects how we think, how we feel, how we act, how we love, and how we are.
Yet, for some reason, this thing that is at the core of every single person on this planet, continues to be taboo. And while progress has been made, we must continue to work together and improve and normalize our approaches to dealing with mental health.
My tiny, small contribution to this conversation, outside of my songs that regularly touch upon the subject, is a platform called Mindset by DIVE Studios which was built with the help of my incredible team and my brothers, Eddie and Brian. It’s grounded in honesty with my struggles and those of my peers. Mindset has grown into a community where individuals can safely and positively discuss their mental health journeys, find resources, and feel heard and seen. We have actors, musicians, we have athletes, and incredible people sharing stories that are most vulnerable.
However, we do not all need to create platforms. We do not need to be musicians, actors, CEOs, or public figures to create impact. As cliche and simple as it may sound, being and embracing our best and most authentic selves—with all of our beauty and our flaws—is where we can begin. It should be with kindness, with honesty, with grace, even though sometimes it may feel very impossible, that we can remember, and encourage ourselves to be perfectly imperfect.
To me, this TIME100 award is an affirmation that being who you are—and who I am—is enough. It’s a reminder that it is OK not to be OK. So thank you, TIME, for this incredible honor and for encouraging me, the world, and all of us, to be just the way we are.
Zainab Salbi: “Women do not need to be empowered—they are in their power”
I want to start by thanking the people of Singapore for their gracious hospitality. It’s my first time to be here and I have been so inspired by all that you have accomplished and built, so thank you. Thank you so, so much.
I also want to congratulate all my fellow recipients: you are a beacon of light. I am in awe of your beauty that you bring into the world by just being you. That I am next to you, I am grateful for that. So thank you and congratulations to you.
Thanks of course TIME Magazine for bestowing this honor upon me. My family in Iraq are very very happy. You proved that their investment in me was worthwhile. And frankly, my home country faces so much destruction, and suffering. We lost everything in the war. And so small good news makes my father extremely happy, so thank you very, very much.
This award really belongs to all the women out there who helped me become who I am, who keep going, and help me keep going on my own journey. They relentlessly keep life going in the midst of wars, and they are now working relentlessly to protect rivers, and forests, and wild animals, and wild plants, which are the most important things to mitigate climate change and further loss of biodiversity.
We have talked a lot about technology today, which is interesting indeed, extremely important in addressing climate change. But let us not forget that nature-based solutions in terms of protecting lands and water and all the animals in it is actually the number one, most important solution for climate change. The number one: nature-based solutions. And that is where women take a huge role.
Now I have been working on women’s rights in the last three decades. In my work in women’s rights and freedoms, I want to say, I’m including my own freedom. That started with my work in warzones, with Women for Women International for 20 years, then reporting on women, on the world from a woman’s perspective, and now with Daughters for Earth that aims at finding funding, celebrating and mobilizing all women to be part of climate actions. And one of the things that have come to learn [is] that women do not need to be empowered. They are in their power. Believe me that they are keeping life going, in the midst of all challenges and despite their circumstances. I am in awe of them, of the power of women. What they need instead is for their power to be reinforced, to be celebrated, to be included in the decision-making tables and in the solutions, and frankly, to be financed. Women still get the minority of all financial support—from the humanitarian world where women get 10 cents out of every dollar, to the climate world, environmental world, where women get 2 cents out of every dollar that goes to environmental issues. So I do believe [that] the power of money and women do need to be more enforced in all ways possible.
Beyond all of that though, humanity can no longer afford to [not] address the most existential crisis facing us today and that is the health of our Earth. For our own existence and for the existence of our future generations with the full inclusion of women in decision-making and in the implementation of all solutions, and in all ways that we actually have to address these issues. At this point, this is no longer a principled necessity, it is not about equality and justice only, it is actually a practical need for us to survive for all our futures.
In the country, this country, that has demonstrated the power of unity and diversity in the most beautiful and inspiring way, I appeal for all to stand in unity—not only between races, classes, and nationalities, not only between sexes and genders, but in unity as humans—that this is the only way—the only way—where we can properly address climate change and change our relationship with nature, with Earth with a more respectful and honoring one. The world needs our daughters, needs our mothers, and our sisters to be part of that journey for their power to be heard and celebrated.
That I play a humble role in that, I am extremely grateful for. Thank you so much.
Ayushmann Khurrana: “India is the fulcrum of progressive storytelling through cinema”
Good evening everyone. I would like to say a verse from our revered Indian scripture the Bhagavat Gita. It’s in Sanskrit:
Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalahetur bhurma
Ma Te Sango Stvakarmani
This verse encapsulates the essence of selfless action. It emphasizes to be process-oriented [rather] than result-oriented. It makes you fall in love with the process, not the outcome of it. Probably gives you the lessons of detachment from the fruits of your own labor.
Neither did I think, nor did I aspire to be here at the global platform representing my nation. I was just doing my job as an artiste, earnestly choosing stories which were real, eclectic, relatable; stories that just trigger a social change in our society. I never thought my simplistic, socially-responsible approach towards my art will usher me to this TIME100 Impact Awards Singapore.
India is very heterogeneous: we have multiple religions, regions, 780 languages and we have almost 1.5 billion people in population. So we have that many stories to tell.
I was very active as a theater person, especially street theater. What exactly is street theater? We used to go to a public place, a group of actors, and there was not a ready audience. We used to call everyone from a circle and perform, act. And it should encapsulate the social fabric of India. It could be folklore, it could be satire, but definitely a call for social change. Then I started journalism, did community radio for villages before shifting my base to a bigger city like New Delhi and Mumbai. All I know is my awareness of the grassroot level of India has really evolved me as an artist. We were basically a bunch of Indian buskers traveling length and breadth of India and reaching out to the masses of the lowest common denominator.
So when I joined films I think it was just an extension of my street theater personality. My films took the similar root of being conversation starters through entertainment.
Tonight is a humbling moment for me to be recognised as an artist by the prestigious TIME Magazine. I’m here to represent India’s moment under the sun and I’m proud of the fact that India is the fulcrum of progressive storytelling through cinema. Thank you TIME Magazine for constantly validating my effort as an artist and encouraging me to tread the road less traveled.
Aap sabka bahut bahut Dhanyavaad, thank you, Jai Hind.
- Meet the 2024 Women of the Year
- Greta Gerwig's Next Big Swing
- East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment
- In the Belly of MrBeast
- The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap
- How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19?
- The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time