Friday, October 8, 2010


This past week has been reflective for Singaporeans with the passing of Mdm Kwa Geok Choo, the better half of Singapore's founding father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. She was once asked by Nixon during a state dinner party, "Mrs Lee, tell me, is it true that you were No. 1 in the class at Cambridge Law School and your husband was No. 2? To which she replied : "Mr President, do you think he would have married me if that were the case?"

She had great intellect but never sought the limelight as most first ladies do, preferring to devote her life to her husband and her children while running a very successful law firm. Stories from those who knew her have unravelled the strength of her character, her wit and the good values she upheld. She was "old school" in her ways of bringing up her children, to the point of asking her children's teachers not to hold back caning as a form of discipline if needed. She resisted special treatment for her children and such good grounding have made them who they are today. And despite her status in society, she was also know to be frugal, which are characteristic of women who have lived through war and tumultuous times. These women are of a special vintage and impart great values of family, kindness, thrift and respect for elders which are getting quite rare in today's society. Parents now have a habit of splurging on their children to make up for the lost of quality time, with maids available at their kids' beck and call. Perhaps I am generalising a little too much but many might agree with me that we are witnessing a new generation which takes things for granted and will become less hardy if life takes a turn for the worse.

Mdm Kwa had virtues that made her a most admirable lady. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said without his wife, he would be a different man with a different life. Indeed behind every great man is a great woman and Singapore had been most fortunate in that aspect.

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