Over the years, Singapore has had many national campaigns, each with specific goals: from the Clean and Green campaign to cultivate a mindset of care for the environment, to the National Courtesy Campaign to inspire care for one another.
We became so accustomed to campaigns, that we might not realise just how many were held. One study counted sixty-six national campaigns in just 24 years (1958 to 1982)!
Singapore’s first national campaign came before our independence – in August 1958. The Anti-Spitting Campaign reminded people that spitting, then commonplace, was socially irresponsible and might contribute to the spread of pneumonia. It got the full works: a large poster was draped across the front of the City Council (City Hall) building. Bridges, telegraph poles, and trees were emblazoned with posters and signs. About 100 workers in the Singapore City Council’s health and water departments went door-to-door to distribute pamphlets and speak about the dangers of spitting in public.
Campaigns were a key part of our nation-building: they shaped our collective values, and reminded us to think of others. The need for campaigns tapered off as Singaporeans matured as a people. We have come to understand that our small, individual actions — whether spitting into a handkerchief in 1958 or coughing and sneezing with our masks on in 2021 — add up to a nation made stronger, for all.