The world farewells “A True Giant of History” who leaves behind a blend of East-West values

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Image Credit: The Washington Post
Image Credit: The Washington Post

Nations have united with Singapore to bid farewell to the first Prime Minister of Singapore and also a leader who has come to be known as the founding father of modern Singapore.  Lee Kuan Yew passed away last Monday at age 91.

More than 1.2 million Singaporeans formally paid their respects to Lee and nearly half a million queued to visit his body at parliament house. World leaders, both former and current, came together for the event. Singapore government has declared seven days of national mourning and flags will fly at half-staff on state buildings .(1)

US President Obama honoured Lee Kuan Yew for transforming Singapore from,  “a backward colonial entrepot into a shining high-tech economy.” He praised Lee as, “A true giant of history.” (2)


Over 100 thousand people braved the heavy rain and lined a 15km route through the city to farewell Singapore’s founding leader.

Lee Kuan Yew
(Img Cred: Reuters: Edgar Su)

Lee Kuan Yew’s Blend of East and West

Lee Kuan Yew brought a blend of Eastern and Western values when leading the nation of Singapore. The British educated Lee Kuan Yew had brought Confucian values to his fledgling nation. A law graduate from Cambridge University, the young Lee used his legal background to enter politics and direct him for a future in leadership and nation-building. He encouraged the strengths of  Singapore’s society with its cultural emphasis on hard work, family, education and responsibility.

The Eastern value of responsibility can be understood by Confucian thought as fulfilling one’s obligations to family and society as well as supporting righteous government.

In an article titled, Lee Kuan Yew, the Man who Remade Asia, Orville Schell stated“Family, diligence, filial piety, education and obedience to authority are values that Mr Lee viewed as binding agents for developing countries in need of methods for maintaining order during times of rapid change.” (3) In other words, these values can be applied to other countries with different cultural backgrounds.

Of the values that Schell identified, perhaps the strongest shared by Confucius and Lee Kuan Yew is that of family.

As Lee wrote in his book titled From Third Word to First: the Singapore Story – 1965-2000,

“Singapore depends on the strength and influence of the family to keep society orderly and maintain a culture of thrift, hard work, filial piety, and respect for elders and for scholarship and for learning.”

In what other ways did Lee Kuan Yew blend Eastern and Western values? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment!

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