If you’re wondering why Chiam is highly-respected amongst politicians on both side of the fence, that’s because he overcame seemingly overwhelming odds and adversity to stand up for the good of Singaporeans when he could have taken a pretty cushy backseat and enjoy life.
All this, done in a gentlemanly way.
Here’s 8 lessons our kids can learn to get the spurs properly stuck in their hides from the man who truly must be the Lion of Singapore.
(1) A Good Cause is Worth Giving Everything For
At a Singapore People’s Party rally, he mustered this line, which spoke more to his conviction than his frailty:
‘I’m afraid you have to be quiet because my voice is not so good.’
Why, at 76 years old and following a stroke, was this Ah Pek still running for office?
“The people shall not be bullied any more. Everyone will be treated equally.”
(2) Aim for the Top: The Peak of the Opposition
The next best after Chiam – the Workers’ Party’s Yaw Shin Leong, who left politics following a highly-publicised extra-marital affair.
Yaw won 64.8% of the votes in Hougang in GE 2011.
So reach for the stars, kids.
And if you miss, you might just hit Yaw, wherever he is.
(3) You’re Never Too Old to Take on Something New: The Silver Champ
He was 41 years old at that time.
He lost in Cairnhill constituency to the legendary Lim Kim San, who we know pioneered housing programme.
So no shame in that defeat!
(4) If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again, and Again, and Again: Singapore’s John McClane
He could have had a comfortable life as a lawyer, but this fella is pretty Die Hard.
(5) Be Versatile and Adaptable: The Lifelong Learner and Doer
Before that, he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Social Science and spent 10 years teaching in Singapore.
Still, in 2002, Chiam gave up his law practice for focus on his political career.
That’s 3 diverse occupations in one lifetime!
(6) Don’t Let Anyone Look Down on You: From Zero to Hero
That’s about as average a score you can get for this national exam.
But to his credit, Chiam won 60.28% of the votes in Potong Pasir in 1984, trumping Mah Bow Tan who scored 6 distinctions and 2 credits in his ‘O’ levels.
(7) Follow Your Destiny: The Descendent of a Revolutionary Fighter
If you’re wondering who Sun Yat Sen is, he’s the first president and founding father of the Republic of China – the precursor to modern China.
Sun’s Three Principles of the People political philosophy – nationalism, democracy, and the people’s livelihood.
(8) Don’t Let Family Affairs Affect Business: The Original Infernal Affairs Hero
The Hong Kong movie’s hero, Chan, ratted on his uncle, because it was his duty as a mole for the cops.
In different circumstances, but still not letting family ties get in the way, Chiam too went up against the PAP even though he was related to Lee Kuan Yew – the PM himself!
It turns out Chiam’s aunty married the brother of Lee Kuan Yew’s wife.
Still, family affairs apparently never affected the political rivalry between the two giants.