Why I cried for a man I never met

Why I cried for a man I never met

Your Say: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

From Mr Timothy Low 

I'm not one who dabbles in the sticky mess of political posts on social media. I don't scrutinise, criticise or whine about whatever the authorities do.

As long as the streetlights come on when it's dark, water runs when I turn on my tap and I don't get mugged when I leave my home, I'm a fairly contented citizen.

I'm a professional golfer, TV personality and an accidental columnist for a few magazines.

I am also a proud son of Singapore.

I turn 25 in a few weeks and I represent a generation that never got to connect with or truly appreciate what Mr Lee Kuan Yew did to build this nation we call our home.

I never thought I'd be emotionally affected when the man slipped gently into the night.

He's a man I never met, a legend I had only read about, a gracefully ageing figure I'd seen year after year at the National Day Parade.

So when the day came, I thought I'd simply send my condolences, reflect on his contributions and get on with my life.

Instead, I bawled my eyes out.

Why? Why was I feeling a small part of me die inside?

Why did I feel an intangible connection with the old man?

Here's the hard truth - without Mr Lee, we wouldn't be where we are today. Period.

Whether you choose to accept it or not, the man made us what we are today.

He dealt with every crisis a developing nation could throw at him with grace, sure-footedness and an unwavering resolve to make things work.

Yes, there are things not all of us agree on - the price of housing, ridiculously expensive cars, maybe national service.

We flood the Internet and social media every time our trains break down or the cost of living rises.

We berate the man and his ministers for their failures, but rarely take the time to show our appreciation for their contributions.

Certificates of Entitlement cost an arm and a leg, but we aren't gridlocked in traffic like in some major cities.

National service plucks a boy from the prime years of his adolescence and throws him into a jungle with a gun, an unnecessary amount of gear and way too much make-up for a heterosexual male to tolerate.

But you know what? Two years later, out steps a man.

So let us take a break from the incessant finger pointing and complaining.

This moment in our history calls for something bigger than our own petty grievances.


Let us exercise an emotion we don't use enough of. Just for this moment, let us be grateful.

Grateful for the man who spent a lifetime tirelessly working to make our great nation better than anyone else expected it to be.

Grateful that he guided us to a reality that few dared dream we could exist so harmoniously in.

I'm not saying that Mr Lee was a saint whom we should venerate with undying devotion, nor am I suggesting that he was a sinner, the suppressor of freedoms that some of us constantly make him out to be.

I'm simply saying he was human.

A man who did what he thought needed to be done for the greater good.

Through the years, he showed that he could be as vulnerable as he could be strong, all the while carrying the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

If he failed, he learnt from his mistakes and kept going.

He was unapologetic about his approach and I respect that.

He is as true a representation of human strength as there is.

He had to be strong not just for himself but for all of us, for all of Singapore.

I now know why I shed a tear for a man I never met.

He IS Singapore as much as we are a part of him.

He gave us what we have, the platform for us to achieve even greater things.

So be grateful that we reap the rewards of what one visionary sowed all those years ago.

Be grateful for the father of our nation.

This article was first published on March 30, 2015.
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