Friday, June 6, 2008

Farewell to Dr. Lee Kum Tatt

I am very saddened to inform you that Dr. Lee Kum Tatt passed away on Sunday 1 June 2008. When I visited his wake, his daughter showed me a bound book containing the printed version of Kum Tatt's blog. Kum Tatt made a special effort to compile his postings into this book. We will miss Dr. Lee Kum Tatt.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time Tested And Time Honoured Values

I have written articles on the importance of values to our lives for my children and teenage grandchildren as they grow up. They asked me why not share some of these with others like them. The teenage years can be very bewildering. They are constantly being thrust into positions which are very confusing to them. How can they be themselves and lead meaningful and successful lives without knowing actually how to achieve this. I and my children who are now in the early fifties and late forties have lived through this ourselves. How to help our young is a role we must always play although many will disagree. Leaving the children alone is the easy way out. But is this good for them and our society? Are there certain established ways which can help them to make their own decisions correctly? This has bothered us and many parents too. I think there are set ways if only we are prepared to look out for them.

One of the ways I follow is to ask questions and try to find the answers to them. Here is an example.

What do you treasure most in your life?. This sounds like a stupid question. My children thought so when they were young. My teenage grand children have taken over this thinking for a while but are now beginning to appreciate the good in some of our way of thinking . I take this as the generation gap which will narrow down with time and age. As parents we want our family members to grow up and be good citizens. It is exasperating that there are no accepted set paths to do this and our kids are constantly exposed to all sorts of ideas, some of which were not considered to be acceptable to us before. For the younger generation it is just as frustrating not knowing how to achieve what they think they like to have or to be. Our youngsters are looking for guidance on how to succeed in life. Encouraging them to go for money is easy. Teaching them how to earn money in the correct way is a different matter. To teach them good values in words is also not difficult. Some common words used include: love your parents; have integrity, be caring for others, avoid the four vices etc; But to teach others how to live these values is not so easy. This is especially so when our society places strong emphasis on money making above everything else. To do anything different from the newly introduced acceptable norms will cost our young opportunities, effort, money, fun and with no materialistic or other tangible returns. But as grandparents and elders we still have a role to play to guide the future generation to keep them on the “straight and narrow path” which are good for us all now and for our future generations. The teenagers and some younger folks may consider this as interfering with their lives as our society has "endorsed" them. It is fashionable for them to criticize our thinking and our way of life as out of date. How did we come to this?

After years of contemplation on this problem on how to guide the younger generation I think I have found something I have been looking for. This may be only one of the many ways we can take. I lived through some of the values and experiences I treasure without realizing it. What I am going to say is not original or new. But it is something that has been time tested. They work on me, my grown children and friends. That’s why I like to share them with you all.

To me the things I treasure most are “Time Tested And Time Honoured Values”. These are the things I am prepared to sacrifice for, fight for, live for and even die for. The returns are not money or what money can buy. They are emotional satisfaction which is so important for many of us with strong EQ who want to lead a fulfilled life. I like to group these values into two general classes:

Abstracts which needs to be qualified by definitions and quantified by deeds. These involve matters of the heart (emotion) and are more difficult to achieve. People with strong EQ will do well.
Materialistic and quantifiable items which are best handled by the head. These usually include wealth, power, and status. Those with high IQ and connections will excel in this area.

The ideal person should have both - high IQ and high EQ. If we can’t get both all the time, at least we must have a good balance. Getting this balance is the constant challenge for us and for our society. The question is ‘Who decides’? As an individual we decide for ourselves where the balance should be. The leaders will decide for the society, but we can still make our contributions if they are for society’s good. Unfortunately this is not always possible because of differences in opinions, priorities and interests. Under these conditions politics flourishes and the balancing problem continues to persist generations after generations. We must continue to hope that it can and will improve with time and will not regress down the slippery path of no return. As individuals we must not give up our right to contribute where we can.

Like most people, my family and I have gone through good and bad times. My hard times include my childhood in the colonial days, the war years and immediately thereafter (1941 -1948). During these years my EQ was much more active than my IQ. My character was also developed during this period. We were more loving and caring for each other and our fellowmen. I also spent a lot of time in education ( to gain more knowledge and skills which I needed) to strengthen my I.Q. I will try to give some examples in this Blog of how I was taught to acquire and live these values I adopted. Also I will try to explain some of the deeds done which made us proud to be ourselves.

Lee Kum Tatt

Sunday, April 6, 2008

To my grandchildren

Thank you Laura, Michelle and Jeffery,

You have raised some very interested issues. I will try to answer them in my articles that follow.

Lee Kum Tatt

Cracked Pots

This is a message from a Friend. An elder Chinese woman has two large pots each hung on the end of a pole which she carries across her neck. One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.

At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the Cracked Pot arrived only half full. For two years this went on daily with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed and miserable of its own imperfection. It could only do half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream. I am ashamed of myself with this crack on my side which causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.

The woman smiled. “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path but not on the other pot’s side?” That’s because I always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Everyday while we walked back you watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.

Each of us has our own unique flaws. It’s the cracks and flaws we each have that makes our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You just have to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

God knows how many ‘Cracked Pots’ we have in our midst. To all your ‘Cracked Pot’ friends have a great day. Remember to smell the flowers on your side of your path.
We thank you for these beautiful flowers!

Laura Kee.

Courage To Pursue Our Dreams and Ideals

Dear Kung Kung (Grandpa)
Congrats for having your Blog for more than a year in spite of your age and your schedule. Your desire to share your values and experiences to make us useful citizens is appreciated. You have taught us it is important to have good principles and values. More important you showed us how to live by them with relevant messages and anecdotes from your experiences. We treasure the private articles you have written for us through the years. They are the most valuable and precious legacy you can give to us.

We also share your joy of being given the Singapore National Institute of Chemistry (SNIC) Distinguished Service Award recently ‘in grateful recognition of your distinguished and lifetime contribution to the Chemistry Community’. You have done us all proud.

Our mother, Dr. Grace Lee Siew Luan, has inherited your genes and practices many of the values you taught her. Like you she has won many professional and research awards. She will be receiving another gold medal award on 12th April 2008 from the Singapore Society of Nephrology in recognition for her contribution to the treatment of kidney patients in Singapore. We are of course very proud of our mother and her achievements. We are sure you must be proud of her too.

As youngsters, we have our own dreams and ask to be allowed to pursue them. We need guidance, encouragement and support to do this. We thank our parents for allowing us to think for ourselves. We are aware of the changing values and priorities in our society.

Our affluent society tends to produce more and more timid souls who feel safer to follow the crowd than their dreams and ideals. Often we are stereotyped as “crackpots” for being different. On the one hand we are screaming for more innovation and creativity and for more people to take risks.

On the other hand are we killing initiative necessary for progress in our competitive world by some of the procedures we adopted? This is not good for our society and our future. How do we create more opportunities for the younger generation to be different and be allowed to pursue their dreams? Are we doing the right thing and are we doing enough? These are questions which we will constantly have to find answers to.

People who dare to think differently and make some mistakes are not failures or ‘Cracked Pots’. ‘Perfect’ people are also not those who made no mistakes in their lives. Perhaps we should encourage more brave people to come forward to help make the difference as was done during Singapore’s pioneering days. We can do it again. Have more faith and trust in the younger generation.

We like to share the following message with you and your “cracked pot” friends. Enjoy the beautiful flowers on our side of the path.

Your grandchildren
Laura, Michelle and Jeffery KEE.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Values of a Good Leader in Science

1. Promote creativity and independent thinking. Create opportunities for budding scientists to achieve their dreams. Question the top down approach.

2. Do not bottle up dissenting views which prevents the truth from being discovered or revealed. In Science accept different views to get to the truth.

3. Do not cheat in your findings, nor be greedy and create benefits only for your self. They will tarnish your image as a good scientist. These will become skeletons in the cupboard after your departure from the scene. Your actions have to be accounted and paid for by your successors and descendents after you are gone. Your reputation which you put in so much effort to build can be destroyed.

4. Develop self control. Do not be selfish as Scientific knowledge and its applications (technology) are for the benefit of all mankind starting with our fellowmen. Share your know how with others and have no part in the misuse of Science & Technology which are against Man’s very existence.

5. Be prepared to accept different views and changes without resentment. Keep politics out of science if we want truth to prevail.

6. Avoid being a Prima Donna. Multidisciplinary approaches need team work which is not easy to build. Share credits with the deserving ones.

7. Do not automatically pass blames to others. Always look for solutions and not scapegoats.

These notes were scribbled on 22 July 1976 by LKT to guide him in his profession, career and life. His success can be attributed to these values which he followed diligently. To him and us the cost has been minimal- the reward very worthwhile and satisfying. LKT got more than he ever dared to dream of when he was young.

.byLee Kum Tatt

Quality of a Good Leader in Science

My husband Lee Kum Tatt (LKT) just celebrated his 81st birthday. He spent a great part of his life in the development of S & T for Singapore’s economic, national, manpower and social development and for the benefit of his fellowmen.

During his time he did not have advisors or groups of advisors to help him do what has to be done. To build what has to be built he depended on his own gut feel and those of his many friends and colleagues. He depended on his values and philosophies to guide him most of the time.

Besides his published scientific and other works ( speeches, keynote addresses, policy papers on a wide range of subjects and issues) he also has scribbled many of his thoughts, philosophies and quotes on paper. Attached is one of his favourite scribbles. We think some of these are interesting and like to share them with you in his blog.

They will provide answers to some of the FAQ (frequently asked questions). What made LKT do what he did? What kind of character is he? How did he survive when he was often considered as an unorthodox person or even a “cracked pot” when the main stream people did not share his views.

After having spent more than 50 years as a family together we know what it is like for those who want to be different like him, are going through. These qualities may not produce Nobel Prize winners or wealthy billionaires but they can give us a comfortable, noble and respectable life.

If this can serve as an encouragement, if not an inspiration to others, to dare to pursue their ideals and dreams LKT’s blog will have served its purpose.

Engeline Lee Eng Nio