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Singapore is one of the best places to be in

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's message for Singapore's young



"...If I were young in my 20s, Singapore is one of the best places to be in.  I can get a good education, a solid foundation for life to do best in life.

"Whether I am Singaporean Chinese, Malay, Indian or whatever, I can get a first rate education, enjoy excellent health services, good and affordable housing and have a safe environment to bring up children.

"I can maximise my opportunities by learning English as my first language, keep as much of my Chinese as I can, and learn Malay as my third language so that I can understand what people in Indonesia and Malaysia are saying on TV and the press.

"Because English is my master language my Mandarin can never be equal to that of China’s Putonghua, nor do I want to become like one of China’s Chinese. Then my value-add to any China-Chinese joint venture is zero. With 1300 million Chinese they do not need another Chinese.

"It is because I am a Singaporean Chinese with world-wide connections with Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Indians, Asean and other peoples, who all use English as the first or second language, so I can add value in any cooperative enterprise with China-Chinese.

"What I need is enough command of Mandarin and understanding of present day Chinese culture to work easily and comfortably with them. And with Singapore as my home, the world is my oyster, for I can afford to travel anywhere in the world for leisure or business.

"...Singapore has a Chinese majority, but whatever your race if you join us as citizens, we accord you equal rights and equal opportunities. This is why we have been able to have considerable inflows of skilled and educated Chinese, Indians, Europeans, and others. Because Singapore is an open cosmopolitan society that accepts and welcomes talent, so we have continued to thrive and prosper.

"You are better placed than your fathers: better educated, able to use English and your mother tongue. Singapore is now a brand name for integrity, efficiency, transparency, consistency and resourcefulness.

"But what my generation has is that fire in the belly. We knew war and enemy occupation. We have experienced fear, hunger and hardship, the terrors of communist insurgency, of communal riots and bloodshed. These trials and tribulations have steeled us for life.

"But your generation has also gone through some rough passages - the Asian financial crisis of 1997-2001, pressure from Indonesia under President Habibie who in 1999 warned us that we are a little red dot; and several difficult years with Malaysia under Dr Mahathir.

"And you suffered the shock of discovering JI suicide bombers in Singapore in December 2001; recession because of the Iraq war of March 2003; and SARS also in 2003.  You have been toughened by setbacks.

"What you need is ambition, the determination and the dare to climb up to greater heights..."

Excerpted from Singapore Government Press Release 20 Aug 2004

Full Text of Speech


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22 August 2004