Rediscovering Lee Kuan Yew: Why I (And Many Other Youth) Care

Over the course of these two days, I’ve been obsessively reading any and all news regarding the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It’s funny how what was once information I grudgingly memorised, frantically regurgitated, then promptly forgot now seems significant in light of his passing.

Every bit of information I can find helps me make sense of a man I mourn for, yet do not personally know. And I think many my age feel the same way too.

A friend has been telling me to watch the numerous interviews he has given; another laments not having read his books earlier. Most telling, as I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, is the sheer amount of posts on him and the life he has led.

We, as a generation, are rediscovering Lee Kuan Yew.

Born long after his policies have been set in stone, we will never be able to experience the tumultuous times that birthed those policies.  We will never be able to share in our parents or grandparents’ stories of building a nation under him, nor can we understand the sacrifices he made to build this nation.

But when he said goodbye to his wife at her funeral with a red rose and a kiss, our hearts broke with his. When we heard his retort to the chewing gum ban (“If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana”), we LOL-ed. And when we found out he rejected a US $3.3 million bribe from the Central Intelligence Agency in 1960, then got the then-Secretary of State to issue a formal apology, we were never prouder of being a Singaporean.

Many years ago, what I remembered most from my social studies class was the scene of Lee Kuan Yew shedding a tear for Singapore after our failed merger with Malaysia. “Harry Lee crying crocodile tears“, my teacher had mocked. That impression stayed with me for the longest time… even till now. Today, as I read the extensive news coverage about his life and achievements, and all the stories my friends are sharing on Facebook, I’m looking at Lee Kuan Yew in a different light. I think a lot of us are.

We are rediscovering his tender, sentimental side. His funny side. His bad-ass side.

And as with all things, his passing will slowly slip from public consciousness with time. But his legacy will endure so long as we continue calling Singapore our home.


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