Lee Kuan Yew Quotes 1 to 25

  1. It is part of their history (USA). They went into an empty continent and made the best of it – killed the Red Indians and took over the land and the buffaloes. So this is how they ended up- you build a town here, you be the sheriff, I am the judge, you are the policeman, and you are the banker, let us start. And the culture has carried on until today. There is a belief that you can make it happen.
  2. China is sucking the Southeast Asian countries into its economic system because of its vast market and growing purchasing power. Japan and South Korea will inevitably be sucked in as well. It just absorbs countries without having to use force.
  3. We want an equal society. We want to give everybody equal opportunities. But, in the back of our minds, we never deceive ourselves that two human beings are ever equal in their stamina, in their drive, in their dedication, in their innate ability.
  4. Americans have a can-do approach to life: everything can be broken up, analyzed, and defined. Whether it can or it cannot, Americans believe it can be solved, given enough money, research, and effort.
  5. If a people have lost faith completely in their democratic institutions because they cannot find people of calibre to run them, however good that system, it perishes. Ultimately, it is the people who run the system who make it come to life.
  6. I have never been over-concerned or obsessed with opinion 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.
  7. Singaporeans must take to heart one simple fact: unless we improve ourselves through education and training and through developing the will to be productive, our future cannot be assured.
  8. In China, it is 90% Han Chinese all speaking the same language, with different accents, but reading the same script. If you stand up in Delhi and speak in English, out of 1.2 billion people, maybe 200 million will understand you. If you speak in Hindi, maybe 250 million will understand you. If you speak in Tamil, 80 million people will understand you.
  9. When you have popular democracy, to win votes you have to give more and more. And to beat your opponent in the next election, you have to promise to give more away. So it is a never-ending process of auctions – and the cost, the debt being paid to the next administration.
  10. Jawaharal Nehru (First Indian PM) and Mahatma Gandhi (started the non-violence, civil rights movement) had a chance to do for India what I did for Singapore because of their enormous prestige, but they could not break the caste system.
  11. America’s presidents, I mean, like Jimmy Carter…my name is Jimmy Carter, I am a peanut farmer, I am running for president. The next thing you know, he was the president!
  12. You must want. That is the crucial thing. Before you have, you must want to have. And to want to have means to be able, First, to perceive what it is you want; secondly, how to discipline and organize yourself in order to possess the things you want…and thirdly, the grit and the stamina.
  13. India’s economy can grow to about 60-70% that of China. It is not going to be bigger – on present projections. But 60-70% of China with a population which will be bigger than China’s by 2050 is something considerable, and India has some very able people at the top.
  14. One of the facts of life is that no two things are equal, either in smallness or in bigness. Living things are never equal. Even in the case of identical twins, one comes out before the other and takes precedence over the other. So it is with human beings, so it is with tribes, and so it is with nations.
  15. I have always thought humanity was animal-like, while Confucian theory says that it can be improved. I am not sure it can be, but it can be trained, it can be disciplined…you can make a left-hander write with his or her right hand, but you cannot really change his or her natural-born instinct.
  16. I do not want to be remembered as a statesman. First of all, I do not classify myself as a statesman. I put myself down as determined, consistent and persistent. I set out to do something. I keep chasing it until it succeeds. That is all.
  17. History does not repeat itself in the same way each time, but certain trends and consequences are constants. If you do not know history, you think short term. If you know history, you think medium and long term.
  18. Revolutionary situations throw up great leaders who demand blood, sweat, and tears; comfortable circumstances produce leaders who promise people an even easier life.
  19. There is a continual need to balance between a successful, competitive society, and a cohesive, compassionate one. That requires judgment, to strike a bargain or social contract. Each society must arrive at that optimum point for itself. Between the two ends, the highly competitive and the excessively equal, lies a golden mean. This point will move with time and changing values.
  20. If you follow the ideological direction of Europe, you are done for. There will always be a tussle within societies, as underachievers want more support, but addressing their needs must be done in a way that does not kill incentive.
  21. There are three basic essentials for successful transformation of any society. First, a determined leadership…two, an administration which is efficient; and three, social discipline.
  22. Indians will go at a tempo which is decided by their constitution, by their ethnic mix, by their voting patterns, and the resulting coalition governments, which makes for very difficult decision-making.
  23. You must not overlook the importance of discussions with knowledgeable people. I would say that is much more productive than absorbing or running through masses of documents. Because in a short exchange, you can abstract from somebody who has immense knowledge and experience the essence of what he had gained.
  24. There is a dearth of entrepreneurial talent in Singapore…we have to start experimenting. The easy things – just getting a blank mind to take in knowledge and become trainable – we have done. Now comes the difficult part. To get literate and numerate minds to be more innovative, to be more productive, is not easy. It requires a mindset change, a different set of values.
  25. Recession must come from time to time. It is in the nature of the free market of the western world…People and systems tend to be carried away by exuberance. Investors get greedy and rush in to buy, believing that prices will only go up. Despair and depression then set in.

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