The timeless words of Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew never really fail to strike a chord in the hearts of Singaporeans. Even to this day, as the nation, together with the rest of the world, is up against a pandemic, the late Mr Lee’s words do not fail to keep aflame the Singaporean spirit.
The Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented for everyone. And yet despite this, Singapore managed to showcase its excellence by becoming a role model for handling Covid-19. Nations looked to the small nation as a forerunner in the battle–at least in the beginning. However, after the number of cases surged, Singapore fell from its ranks and became the Southeast Asian country with the most number of confirmed cases. Quite ironically, the shining star of a nation that has attained first world status found itself outshined by its less wealthy and less developed neighbours, such as Vietnam.
The Covid-19 pandemic unearthed issues which shook Singapore to its core. These issues, such as the neglect of the foreign worker dormitories and the surge in cases, also rocked the nation’s political arena, causing some to question the Government’s decisions and others to switch sides.
With no choice but to think on its feet and drive away the cloud of gloom that seemed to overshadow the nation’s future, Singapore began to make the adjustments. It is as if the words of Lee Kuan Yew were heard–travelling through time to remind the nation to remain resolute and showcase the same grit that took it from third world to first world status. “Never be depressed, never be deflated by setbacks.”
In August 1966, Mr Lee delivered a speech for the National Day Rally. Though the inspirational words were spoken decades ago and primarily revolved around Singapore’s steps towards independence and integration, their impact remains intact, as they fit right in with the nation’s current crisis.
“It has been a year of great and sudden change,” he said, which every Singaporean can attest to–today more than ever. Mr Lee also cited the progress that Singapore made despite “political unpleasantness.”
“Almost in spite of ourselves, we have forged ahead…” He credited Singapore’s success to a one of the nation’s greatest strengths–“its willingness to face reality.”
Mr Lee reminded the people of its capabilities, saying, “This capacity to face up to situations, however intractable, however unpleasant, is one of the great qualities for survival. A people able to look facts squarely in the face, able to calculate the
odds, to weigh the chances and then to decide to go it, are a people not likely to go under.”
Though his speech was written for a different time and for different circumstances, his closing remarks seem to be fitting for such a time as this.
“Every year, on this 9th of August for many years ahead – how many, I do not know–we will dedicate ourselves anew to consolidate ourselves to survive,” said Mr Lee, “and, most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built and what our forebears will build up.”