Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew: Top performer with a playful streak

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew: Top performer with a playful streak
Raffles Institution prefects marching past Mr Lee Kuan Yew, an old Raflesian honour was mounted by the school's National Cadet Corps.

Raffles Institution, where Mr Lee Kuan Yew was schooled, has released three articles in memory of the late Founding Prime Minister.

The articles are reproduced below.

Raffles Institution mourns the passing of its most distinguished Rafflesian, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, an illustrious Rafflesian who profoundly reshaped the destiny of our nation.

Contributions to Singapore & Beyond

When he was only 36 years old, Mr Lee became Singapore's first Prime Minister, in 1959. The challenges that he and the other founding fathers faced in the initial years are well-documented. History tells us that they overcame near insurmountable odds to lay the foundation for our present success. During the 31 years when Me Lee served as Singapore's Prime Minister, he led Singapore from the Third World to the First. He will always be honoured as the chief architect of modern Singapore.

The Raffles Institution Days

Contrary to public belief, Mr Lee shared that he was not a model student during this time in RI (1936 - 1940). He confirmed this in his memoir, The Singapore Story. He writes that he 'never became a prefect, let alone head prefect'. He also admitted to having a 'mischievous, playful streak' in him, and was 'too often… caught not paying attention in class, scribbling notes to fellow students, or mimicking some teacher's strange mannerisms'.

However, Mr Lee did exhibit his trademark tenacity and intellect early in life. His standard VII form master wrote in his report book that 'Harry Lee Kuan Yew is a determined worker for a place of distinction.' The same teacher went on to predict that 'he is likely to attain a high position in life.' At RI, Mr Lee sat for the Senior Cambridge examinations, and emerged as the top student for Singapore and Malaya.

Mr Lee attributes his beliefs in meritocracy and multiculturalism to his time as a student in RI. In a preface he penned for The Eagle Breeds a Gryphon, Mr Lee notes how he 'grew up familiar and comfortable with people of different races and different classes.' The superiority of such a meritocratic system left a deep impression on his 'youthful mind' and subsequently influenced the kind of Singapore he went on to build - 'a Singapore based on merit and not on race or status or wealth of parents'.

Mr Lee also embodied another tradition of RI, the spirit of public service. This spirit led him to dedicate his life to serving Singapore.

The Faithful Rafflesian

Mr Lee has graced several key moments of the school's history over the decades. He spoke at RI's 146th Founder's Day Celebrations on 6 June 1969. Mr Lee also laid the foundation stone of the Boarding Complex on 25 March 1994, ahead of its first batch of boarders that moved into the Complex in 1995.

Mr Lee's final visit to RI on 13 September 2010 was a homecoming of sorts for him. The memories of his days as a student in RI were triggered by a tour of the school's Heritage Centre, as well as observations of ongoing lessons. When the school presented a clay model of the Bras Basah campus to him as a gift at the end of the visit, he was visibly moved and declared that this was one of the most memorable gifts that he had ever received.

Mr Lee also interacted with six Year 4 and 5 Rafflesians, who provided a snapshot of life as a student in RI. They touched on their academic interests, their passion for social advocacy, and their pursuits in sports, the performing arts, and other co-curricular areas.

When asked to pen down his thoughts about his visit, this was what Mr Lee had to say: 'Good bright students, experienced dedicated teachers and principals inculcate the best values in [RI] students. RI graduates owe Singapore society for giving them their education. It behooves them to later contribute to society and to RI.'

The RI Gryphon Award

In recognition of the man who led the country to independence, stability and prosperity, Mr Lee was accorded the highest award of the school, RI's inaugural Gryphon Award which honours RI's most distinguished alumni at the school's Gala Dinner on 13 January 2011.

The gryphon which sits atop RI's school crest is a mythical creature, half-eagle and half-lion. It combines the speed and penetrating vision of the eagle with the strength and courage of the lion. These are qualities that aptly describe Mr Lee who, over the past five decades, has rallied and inspired Singaporeans of all ages, with his foresight, leadership and service to the nation.

His loss is deeply felt by all Rafflesians.

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