Growing up, I remember hearing stories about Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Some good and others in hushed tones. After studying in Australia for 4 years, and building my life back in Singapore, I have come to appreciate everything good about this man. Today, as I watch his legacy on the many News Channels, all I can say is that, “Thank you Mr Lee, for bringing us so far!”
I love the fact, that when I backpacked Europe and mentioned that I am from Singapore, I got nods of approval from foreigners. They did not think, that we are a province in China, or a 3rd World Country in Asia. They view us, as a Asian Tiger and a prosperous country, and we did all this in 50 years. In 50 years, we have 1st World Singapore.
I love it, when a visitor to Istana mentioned, “50 years ago, you cried for Singapore, and 50 years later, we cry for you!”.
As a leader, there is just so much to be appreciated about this man. He made tough and unpopular decisions, when others would have backed down. His vision for Singapore consumed his whole life. Reading about his “little red box”, only fortified my belief in his precision and commitment to nation building. Watching how Mr. Lee picked up his mandarin and hokkien when he spoke none, only won my admiration. When he said,”This is not a game of cards…” …it only captivated my imagination.
Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down. (Speech at a rally in Raffles Place, Singapore in 1980)
Today, when Singaporeans lined up for 8 hours or more to pay their respects to the man, shows how our nation has grown. We have learnt to appreciate the best in this man,despite his imperfections. We know that, ultimately we would not have come so far, without the courage and vision of MM Lee. This week, I will bring my kids to pay their respects to our Founder. I will want them to be a witness and participant in Singapore’s history.
In my lifetime, there will only be one Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore may not have the fortune to find another for a long time to come.