Excerpt from former PM Lee Kuan Yew’s first National Day rally speech in 1966

Never be depressed, never be deflated by setbacks. We suffered setbacks. In 1964, there were two communal riots. And we do not pretend to ourselves they were not communal riots – they were. We face facts. And this is one of the greatest strengths about Singapore: its willingness to face reality including the 9th of August. We used to celebrate 3rd of June; then, it was the 16th of September, when we promulgated Malaysia. Then, it went back to the 31st of August because other people celebrated the 31st of August. And then it had to be the 9th of August, and the 9th of August it is, not because we wished it to be but because it was.This capacity to face up to situations, however intractable, however unpleasant, is one of the great qualities for survival. A people able to look facts squarely in the face, able to calculate the odds, to weigh the chances and then to decide to go it, are a people not likely to go under. And when this time last year, before the news was broken to the world, my colleagues and I carried that heavy burden in our hearts of having made the decision on your behalf, we consoled ourselves with this thought: that whilst thereafter, the multi-racial society that we had set out to create could be implemented only within the confines of Singapore, we knew deep down that ultimately, its impact must spread far beyond its shores.

No geographic or political boundary can contain the implications of what we set out to do when we succeed. And, there is no reason why given patience,tolerance, perseverance, we should not, in this hub, in this confluence of three indeed, four great civilisations, create a situation which will act as a yeast, a ferment for what is possible, given good will, forbearance and good faith. Every year, on this 9th August for many years ahead – how many, I do not know – we will dedicate ourselves anew to consolidate ourselves to survive; and, most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built and what our forebears will build up.

Thank you.

(9 August is the National Day of Singapore, when it was separated from Malaysia)


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