Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Man Who Saw Tomorrow: What They Said About Lee Kuan Yew Through The Years

Legend. Genius. Visionary. Throughout his backbreaking years as he struggled to establish our tiny nation on the world map, Singapore’s founding father earned all these tributes, and more. To get a sense of the brilliant mind that was Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we need only to recall the reverence that his deeds have inspired from leaders and luminaries all over the world.

On his bold vision:

“A big man on a small stage.”
— Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State
“Abraham Lincoln once said … ‘towering genius disdains a beaten path.’ For the people of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew was such a towering leader who held a bold vision for his nation.” (October 18, 2011)
— Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil
“The leader who, perhaps, impressed me most was Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore… He was an individual who changed the course of history… Lee Kuan Yew took the right decisions for his country; he chose the right values and the right economic policies to ensure the development of a successful society. In this, he was an artist painting on the largest canvas that society can provide.”
— F.W. de Klerk, former President of South Africa


On his straight-talking style:

“[Australians] do have a certain fondness for your remarkable founder (Mr Lee Kuan Yew), not in spite of all his stern words about us, but perhaps because of them. Over the decades, we came rather to look forward to Lee’s regular visits, and we’ll always welcome him again. For us, they have resembled the arrival of a respected if rather forbidding uncle, come to awaken us from our indolence and insist that we be our best selves.”
— Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia
“All those who met the great man from the little country were lectured on how Malaysia should be run.”
— Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia


On the miracles he made: 

“This is one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries. He is somebody who helped to trigger the Asian economic miracle.” (October 29, 2009)
— Barack Obama, President of the United States
“Lee Kuan Yew took a small spit of land in Southeast Asia, which became independent in 1965 after great struggle and anguish, with no resources and a polyglot population of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian workers, and turned it into one of the economic centers of the world… He is still indisputably the father of Singapore. I was struck by the depth of his understanding of the world — China, Russia, and the United States — all at age 85.” (September 21, 2008)
— Fareed Zakaria, editor-at-large of Time Magazine


On his brilliance:

“The smartest leader I think I ever met.”
— Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
“Mr Lee is like a one-man intelligence agency.” (September 2013)
— Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Minister for Education
“In my long life in public service, I have encountered many bright, able people. None is more impressive than Lee Kuan Yew.”
— George H.W. Bush, former President of the United States
“In office, I read and analysed every speech of Harry’s. He had a way of penetrating the fog of propaganda and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our times and the way to tackle them. He was never wrong.” (1998)
— Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister


On the admiration and respect he commanded: 

“He always commands an attentive audience amongst Western leaders.”
— James Callaghan, former British Prime Minister (1998)
“It is terrific to be at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. It is especially special for me because a gentleman I admire so much, and have learned so much from, is Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. He has given me lots of tutelage on Asia and China and India, and has tremendous insights.” (February 1, 2011)
— Sam Palmisano, chairman of IBM
“As soon as I learned a number of years ago about the Lee Kuan Yew School, I wanted to figure out some way to at least come by. I cannot think of a better testament for a leader who has made a huge mark in the world.” (December 18, 2008)
— Robert Zoellick, ex-president of the World Bank
“He and Dr Kissinger are probably the only two world statesmen who, after leaving office, find an open door to every head of state and government anywhere in the world.”
— Lord Carrington, former British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs 
“I used to be the advisor to the Minister Mentor. It was a very hard job, because… every time I was just about to tell something to Mr. Minister Mentor, he would stop me and tell me the thing I was to tell him. Then I would return to the United States and sell his advice. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister Mentor, for all the things you have taught me. I tried giving you my advice. But, in fact, it was you who taught me.” (July 10, 2007)
— James Wolfensohn, ex-president of the World Bank


On what Singapore owes him:

“He built a nation nobody believed possible.”
— Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
“Lee Kuan Yew has made Singapore his life’s work. His success launched a country, inspired a continent, and earned admiration from around the world.”
— Simon Chesterman, Dean of NUS Faculty of Law
“MM Lee’s life of public service is both unique and remarkable… His work as prime minister and now as minister mentor has helped literally millions of people in Singapore and all across Southeast Asia to live better, more prosperous lives.” (October 27, 2009)
— Bill Clinton, former President of the United States
“Other leaders have reshaped nations… but no one left a deeper imprint on his people than Lee.”
— Nicholas Kristoff, columnist for the New York Times

Image Credit: ST Asia
Image Credit: ST Asia

Much has been said about Mr Lee Kuan Yew throughout his long and storied life. It is a tribute to his legendary vision and iron will that admirers and opposers alike acknowledge his extraordinary contributions to the Singapore success story. As our little red dot approaches its 50th birthday, let us salute the man who gave his best years to steer us to where we are today.
“Over the years Lee has been called many things — unflattering as well as admiring. But perhaps the single most fitting description is: The Man Who Saw Tomorrow.”
— Zoher Abdoolcarim, Asia Editor of Time Magazine
For all you have done for Singapore — thank you, Mr Lee.

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