The one quality that I admire most about Lee Kuan Yew is “perspicacity”. This is the ability to judge and understand people and situations. To me, it includes the ability to see into the future.I think it was Confucius who said; “If a man takes no thought for what is distant, he will find sorrow close at hand”. I believe that, had it not been for Lee Kuan Yew’s perspicacity and his constant preoccupation with Singapore’s future, we Singaporeans could be facing a very different kind of sorrow today, as we mourn the passing of this great man.
Lee Kuan Yew was a great orator. As a young man, I listened to all his speeches. The speech that I remember best was the one he made in 1971 in Helsinki at the General Assembly of the International Press Institute. (Actually it was not so much his speech as his handling of the reporters’ questions after the speech that impressed me). I recall that at that time, we were facing much criticism by the Western press because of our government’s perceived suppression of press freedom. Many advised him not to accept the invitation to speak at this event as he was bound to be thrashed by the hostile gathering of his ‘enemies’.
But as this Chinese idiom goes; “明知山有虎，偏向虎山行” (to venture into the mountain knowing that there are tigers lurking there), he went anyway. And instead of being mauled by the fearsome tigers, he had them eating out of his hand like docile pussycats. Such was the persuasiveness of the man and the strength of his arguments. Watching his masterly performance made me feel proud to be a Singaporean.