Reflections on Lee Kuan Yew

March 2015, by Awaken Group team

We would like to share a special tribute to Singapore’s First Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, who governed for three decades and continued to have great influence throughout his entire life. Awaken Group’s Asia headquarters are based in Singapore, and many of our team members are also based here, so we wanted to share some personal reflections as we have all been impacted in some way.


“As I reflect on LKY, I am deeply saddened by the passing of a season and the death of a pioneer and transformational leader. It’s rare to be able to see the life and impact of someone who founded a nation and built it up to be a leading power all within one lifetime. Since living here for the last 4 years, a few reflections…

– It takes moral courage to lead with integrity. LKY was willing to pay a “price” for his values at the cost of popularity and always being understood. His values were real, not just espoused.
– The person behind closed doors must reflect the person on the stage. He was consistent in how he led his family and the nation with a firm, but loving hand.
– He lived out true transformational leadership. He did not see himself above others and raised his children to not feel they were ‘better than others’ or privileged, even when they were. He led with a spirit of service for the good of his country and not of himself or his family when he easily could have done so. He inspired millions to follow his vision even when it was tough. He dedicated his life to serving his nation.

As Singapore celebrates it’s 50th year anniversary this year (SG50), I look forward to a renewed sense of purpose and values that this nation is built on. It is my hope that Singapore and the memory of LKY serve as an inspiration and challenge to other nations around the world to lead with clear purpose while intentionally living out their values in their day-to-day decisions…

…Because the world is in desperate need of transformational leadership now, more than ever before.” –So-Young Kang

“March 23 Monday – the day Singaporeans woke up to the realization that they have to live in a country without their founding father, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. I read about his passing as early as 4.45am and after reading the news, I glanced at my firstborn and felt a tinge of regret that my children will enjoy the benefits of being a Singaporean without meeting the man who made it all happen. As a woman living in Asia, daughter of a former civil servant who needed financial aid to study abroad, wife to a man who eventually decided that Singapore was still his home after living abroad, and mother of two young boys who will definitely serve National Service in time to come, I will forever be in his debt. So thank you, Mr. Lee and to your children for sharing your father with us.” –Chelsea Chen

“If Singapore were not what is it today—safe, international, clean, peaceful—I probably would not be here. Singapore has truly become a second home for me and there is nowhere on the planet where I feel safer. I feel privileged to be here and amazed at the incredible progress this country has made in the last 50 years guided by Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership. Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew are an amazing example of what can be achieved under the right leaders who have integrity, clear vision, heart for their nation, and the right intentions. Living and working here have been a huge blessing for me and I will always be thankful to Singapore for the life experiences I have had here.” –Hanna Kim

“I was not from the generation that witnessed the transformation of Singapore from a third world to first. Instead, I am of the generation that was a fortunate beneficiary of Lee Kuan Yew’s vision for Singapore. I was born into a city with a world-class education system, efficient transport systems, safe roads and infrastructures. Lee Kuan Yew’s pragmatism and tough love, although oftentimes resulting in unpopular policies, were admittedly good decisions for a developing nation that could not afford to fail.

The result? We have become a resilient nation that cannot be ignored. With no natural resources but ourselves, it is an unexpected feat. Lee Kuan Yew gave his life to make this happen. Resilience, sacrifice, honesty, and justice. To me, these were some of the values that he stood for. I hope to continue living them out wherever I go, because I am Singaporean. Thank you, Mr Lee. You’ve done all that you could have. May you rest in peace.” –Wei Zhen Lee

Photo credit: Terence Tan, Ministry of Communications and Information

“I remember the first time I visited Singapore I thought to myself, “Wow what a rare gem in all of Asia!” I was amazed that this tiny dot on the map of SE Asia could reflect the multiculturalism of Toronto, the international community of London, and the vibrancy of Asia all together! So needless to say, when I learned about the mastermind behind the genius that is Singapore, I had a lot of respect for him. This past week, Singapore mourned for their founding father Lee Kuan Yew. As a Canadian citizen living and working in Singapore, I just wanted to say thank you for making the impossible possible. I am so inspired by your tenacity, courage, and convictions to make this place a hubspot for the rest of the world! Blessings to Singapore! RIP LKY.” –Lily Li

“With the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I mourn the death of a man who has impacted my life. I salute the achievements of a man who was devoted to both family and country. But I will not miss Lee Kuan Yew, the giant of a man who sacrificed much to realise his dream of Singapore. He has inspired many generations and his work is done. He deserves eternal rest, while the rest of us do our part to realise our dream of Singapore. Thank you Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.” –Jason Chan

“In the brief time that I’ve been in Singapore, I’ve heard a lot about the great impact Lee Kuan Yew’s ideas and policies have had in shaping this country. However since his passing, the stories that stood out to me most were those told by his children and grandchildren. Beyond the very visible achievements of Mr. Lee, I admire his simplicity, honesty, and character. I really respect his consistency in living a simple life and focusing on what truly matters—his family and the people entrusted to his care. I feel like I got to understand a bit of who he was as a person over the past week, and can now recognize how his character is reflected in this place that I presently call home.” –Will Tang

“LKY’s life stands as an inspiring example of the possibility to shape one’s own destiny with passion, imagination, and self assurance. He is an inspiration to locals and foreigners alike, and leads you to reflect on your own possibilities.” –Merlin Kwan