In Memoriam: LKY - A Letter to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

In April 2015, to mark the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern Singapore, Writing the City invited Singaporeans to pen a 300-word reflection on what this towering figure had meant to them.

Mr Lee will be remembered as an intellectual, a visionary politician and a statesman who earned the respect of governments around the world. He will also be remembered as a formidable and pragmatic ruler who laid the foundations for the prosperity of Singapore today.

But we asked: what did Mr Lee mean to you personally? How did his vision for the country affect your personal or cultural sense of identity – perhaps even the way that you think of yourself as Singaporean?

This is what you told us.

A Letter to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Dear Mr Lee, 

They say a life is best appreciated in retrospect. With your recent passing, I had collected a wealth of information about you. It wasn’t cold data though; for I can remember my parents talk about “老李” with an inflection that I wasn’t quite used to - they appeared cautious, somewhat terse even. Now I see how real the tensions they have lived through were; the tensions you lived through. 

As with all men of valour, you responded to the crises and challenges with clarity of purpose that would make you out to be the leader and change-agent we needed.  I have seen that footage of tears in the university while studying political science; but now, as a leader, I feel those tears with intensity - leaders know when things go to rot and they sense the hefty price that lies ahead. Yet you hunkered down and paid the price. The world has seen many leaders serve their self-interests or refuse to step aside graciously; but not you. 

As a woman, the scenes of family life, the stories about you and Mrs Lee; they moved me deeply. You were an unusual amalgam of honesty, ferocity and devotion; an amazing yin-yang balance. 

Sir, you have given us a wonderful legacy. You showed us that dreams are important, values are crucial, and hard work is essential. You showed us that we have to live and work with heart, head and hands. Thank you for being such an excellent example of what it means to live well and strong in whatever season one is in. 

Rest in peace, sir.

Ho Yim Tee, Jenni

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