Happy birthday, MM Lee, don’t stop thinking about tomorrow


Singapore's first prime minister, and now Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew turns 85 today. Many happy returns of the day. And don't stop thinking about tomorrow. Yes, that's Fleetwood Mac singing the song at President Clinton's inauguration in 1993.

The BBC reported on MM Lee's 80th birthday:

Mr Lee's birthday was marked in customarily deferential manner by Singapore's newspapers. The English-language Straits Times ran a special section entitled "Well Wishes".

On Singapore's Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia websites, I don't see anything yet about his birthday. But he made the news only three days ago when he showed his spirit with his characteristic dry humour. When despite being hospitalised for an abnormal heartbeat, he delivered a five-speech minute to a public forum on philanthropy by video link from his hospital room. "Unlike Kim Jong Il who says he is well but has not appeared, I thought I'd better say hello to you and to your guests and apologise for not being able to join you," he said. That quote has found its way into Lee Kuan Yew Google Quotes. Thank goodness he was discharged from hospital two days ago, so we can expect to hear more from him.

He has always had a way with words. Unfortunately, most of his life's work was done before the internet arrived. Still, there are bits and pieces floating around the Net, including some memorable articles. Here are a few: by Fareed Zakaria for Foreign Affairs in 1994, Louis Kraar in Fortune in 1997, Terry McCarthy writing in Time in 1999, Seth Mydans and Wayne Arnold in the New York Times in 2007.

Then, of course, there's that famous videoclip on YouTube showing him announcing Singapore's separation from Malaysia in 1965. The video ends with him saying in a voice choked with emotion, "Would you mind if we stop for a while?"

"Don't stop," I am tempted to say, recalling that famous Fleetwood Mac song. I do know MM Lee doesn't care for pop music. But listen to the lyrics. "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow." MM Lee is always thinking about tomorrow.