Lee Kuan Yew: 12 quotes from Singapore’s most memorable leader

He didn’t mince his words, he didn’t hold back, and he wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said. In all aspects, Singapore’s first Prime Minister was a leader who understood the power of getting the message right.

On this sad day of mourning, nothing is more apparent than the profound effect the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had on this country and its people.

As a leader, a Prime Minister, a Singaporean, and a family man, here are some of the most memorable quotes from Singapore’s founding father.

1. “I have been accused of many things in my life, but not even my worst enemy has ever accused me of being afraid to speak my mind.”

2. “I was never a prisoner of any theory. What guided me were reason and reality. The acid test I applied to every theory or scheme was: Would it work? The acid test is in performance, not promises. It is not from weakness that one commands respect. As long as the leaders take care of their people, they will obey the leaders.”

3. “I have never been overconcerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls.I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. If you are concerned with whether your rating will go up or down, then you are not a leader. You are just catching the wind … you will go where the wind is blowing. And that’s not what I am in this for.”

4. “Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I’m meaningless.”

5. “If I were not the Prime Minister, he [Lee Hsien Loong] could have become Prime Minister several years earlier. It is against my interest to allow any family member, who’s incapable, to be holding an important job because that would be a disaster for Singapore and my legacy. That cannot be allowed.

6. “What I fear is complacency. When things always become better, people tend to want more for less work.”

7. “Life is not just eating, drinking, television and cinema…The human mind must be creative, must be self-generating; it cannot depend on just gadgets to amuse itself.”

8. “Usually, I read biographies of interesting people. I am not attracted to novels – make-believe, or recreations of what people think life should be.”

9. “I don’t believe in love at first sight. I think it’s a grave mistake. You’re attracted by physical characteristics and you will regret it.”

10. “I’m not interested in changing either my suit or my car or whatever with every change in fashion. That’s irrelevant. I don’t judge myself or my friends by their fashions. Of course, I don’t approve of people who are sloppy and unnecessarily shabby or dishevelled… But I’m not impressed by a $5,000 or $10,000 Armani suit.”

11. “I do not yet know of a man who became a leader as a result of having undergone a leadership course.”

12. “I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”


Image courtesy of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page

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