Lee Kuan Yew first Asian to receive Lincoln Medal

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was presented with the Lincoln Medal, an award which honours those whose accomplishments exemplify the legacy of America's 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.

Mr Lee is the first Asian to receive the annual award, reported The Straits Times.

Previous winners included top United States diplomat Hillary Clinton, South African activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Hollywood director George Lucas.

During the award ceremony at the historic Ford's Theatre in Washington on Wednesday morning, Mr Lee spoke about the tough economic situation in the US and said that its "strengths and resilience will help the country come out on top again".

"I am confident that America's innate creativity, resilience and innovative spirit will allow it to confront its core problems, overcome them and regain competitiveness," said Mr Lee.

He also hailed the warm relations between the US and Singapore: "America has been a good friend of Singapore and Singapore has been a reliable partner of America. We have worked very well over the last five decades for the peace and prosperity of our region."

The hour-long ceremony was attended by about 100 invited guests, including Cabinet members from the current and previous administrations, top business leaders, and leading academics.

Prominent guests who were at the ceremony included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Jim Webb, Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as White House chief of staff Bill Daley.

Three renowned opera singers - Ms Kathleen Battle, Ms Denyce Graves, and Ms Jessye Norman - also performed.

Head of Exxon Mobil Corp, Mr Rex Tillerson, paid tribute to Mr Lee's accomplishments: "'It is a supreme measure of his life, that like Abraham Lincoln, political leaders now seek to follow in his nation's footstep, looking to Singapore as an example and inspiration for success. This is the life and legacy we recognise tonight."

klim@sph.com.sg