A LIFE LESS ORDINARY
Every once in your lifetime someone moves you in a way that you find difficult to understand , let alone express . I write this in the hope that my children will catch a glimpse into the man they never knew.
Separate the man from his politics , the motives with the methods , the means with the passion .
I want to remember him for his intellect , his searing passion and his steely determination to reach the end line . And I want to ponder his uncanny vision that was never of his time but always of a minimum 20 years into the future .
He has lived his life without apologies . Many question his need to still have a siege mentality fighting the communists in his mind 50 years on. Many challenge the need to always be on the lookout for the shadows of disorder and anything that would destroy our heritage and all that he has built. I fully understand that . But for now , as he lies there, I just want to celebrate his passion for the nation that he loves, as a father who would fight to the end for the child that he has brought into this world and nurtured .
I want to remember the things he did which no one understood or appreciated when he did it 50 years ago so that we could see it today.
How many of us could understand why he would plant thousands of trees when he came into power ? He wanted the world to come here one day and see the blanket of trees in our garden city. And perhaps he foresaw that we will be successful and inevitably be transformed into a cold steel and concrete jungle today. So he planted .Trees takes time to grow.
How many appreciated his incessant insistence on building wide roads and intricate infrastructure that we didn’t think we needed that badly in our fathers time . Think of when he introduced what we thought was excessive grandeur at the time – our MRTs which is a lifeline today in the way we live . He commissioned the city planners in 1967 to undertake a comprehensive study of our transport system . It was advised that we needed a rail transit system by 1992 to meet our demands . When another Singapore great the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong the then Transport Minister presented it to parliament in the early 80s , many including the most senior ministers objected as the staggering amount to be spent was unprecedented and some felt we could rely on an all bus system. Again , it was down to his judgement and his vision . The decision to proceed was difficult to make . It could cost votes. Imagine Singapore today without the MRT. It’s unthinkable .
All the successful major cities in Asia today are plagued with gridlock and there is not much they can do about it because they planned those roads 50 years ago to fit those times only . And today they are starting to dig . We built wide roads and started digging more than 20 years ago because of him. He put us 20 years ahead of everybody else . We never knew that.
We questioned what we thought was his all too pious morality in refusing the citizens access to casinos . He held it off as long as he could but today we have two because it was all about economic survival . We wanted a choice and was annoyed to find one man deciding for us . But talk to the families today who are destroyed by those casinos and perhaps we will begin to understand him.
What is our biggest ill today that is plaguing us as a nation ? What has caused us to change the way we live , to change our neighbors and even change the person you may marry ? And which will threaten our economic survival . It is our falling birth rate . Who would have thought ? He mentioned this when I was a schoolboy . He saw this . We were outraged when he wanted to introduce radical policies like the graduate mother scheme. And to the best of my memory he never withdrew anything he started but he withdrew that . And we are where we are today with a problem that no one can solve in a hurry, but which threatens our very existence . Babies take time too.
I want to take time to think about his humanity and the only glimpse he allowed us to see of a chink in his strong amour . It is the woman he loves . Go read his books and his chapters of her . It is all there . And when she passed I thought of the albatross that has only one mate and who will not last the next winter once his soulmate is gone . And I watched his grieving start. He held on as long as he could . He’s with his mate now.
We will never produce another person like him. I hope we remember him for the next 50 years . And celebrate his life in ours.
And if you can hear me Sir , thank you for your life.