For Friends

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Dear Colleagues,

Thank you so much for your show of support.

It has been a very emotional week for me and many other Singaporeans. The passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, was one of those events you knew would eventually happen but nothing ever prepares you for it.

We observed a moment of silence at work today, but I would like to share what this moment in history means to me, and I think it rings true with many of my fellow Singaporeans.

I have never met Mr. Lee, but his presence has always been there in my growing up years. His strident voice was frequently heard in our homes as our parents watched the nightly 9 o’clock news. It always carried a sense of gravitas, drawing our attention to serious national issues; not seeking consensus, but providing clear direction and the reassurance that we would come out the other end all the stronger.

During my time in the public service, his imprint was unmistakable: the demand for excellence and uncompromising integrity.

In this time of national mourning and recollection, it might seem to the outsider that our collective grieving borders on deification. After all, surely all of Singapore could not possibly have been the work of a single individual — this one man!

We celebrate his life’s work not because he single-handedly built the country. He had a most amazing team that laid the foundations upon which Singapore was built, and a steadfast wife who supported him on the long journey before him. We celebrate his life and mourn his passing because he was Singapore’s staunchest believer and fiercest defender. In 1965 when Singapore became perhaps the only country to receive independence against her will, it was Lee Kuan Yew who gathered the pieces of his broken dreams for a merger with Malaysia, and devoted his life towards the singular belief that we would not only overcome the odds that were stacked against us, but we would thrive.

The Singapore we see today is a result of that belief and Mr. Lee’s unrelenting conviction that simply refused to allow our nation to wallow in self-pity, or crumble under racial tension. That his death is mentioned in the halls of New Zealand’s Parliament, and allotted a day of mourning in India is testament that our little island nation has exceeded all expectation and come into our own.

Just like many of you, this week has been a time of voracious reading of the many personal accounts of Mr. Lee’s life, both personal and in public service. I am inspired to take a bit of Lee Kuan Yew with me in work, service and in life: his fearless conviction; his unyielding diligence; his uncanny attention to detail; and his utter devotion to the people of Singapore.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to articulate fully what he means to us, but the hundreds and thousands who have waited day and night to bid farewell to him offer a glimpse as to the measure of our nation’s gratitude to the one who first believed this was all possible.

Family, Country, Self

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I watched our Prime Minister hold back tears today as he announced the passing of his father, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.

It was hard to watch as PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered the speech, gathering whatever emotional strength he had left. “Mr. Lee Kuan Yew”, he said, voice breaking. Not out of disrespect, but out of duty. The eldest son of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was first and foremost our Prime Minister. The tears he held back as son would have to wait for more private moments. As he left the rostrum, we could feel the tremendous weight on his shoulders and the grief that must have been in his heart.

It was only a day before when he wrote “Dear Papa, hope you get better!”.

There will undoubtedly be multitudes of published notes of grief, some extolling Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s achievements, recounting his wit, outlining his life; and deservedly so. May we turn also to resolve, to remember, honour and uphold the Singaporean spirit he exhibited and helped define.

I watched our Prime Minister squeeze the last vestiges of his strength this morning to fulfill his duty to country. I know his father would have been proud.

Let us bear this weight together. Majulah Singapura.

Love Language

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My younger colleagues asked me over lunch, if I still knew how to 谈恋爱 (fall in love, or romance), being married and all. It’s such an innocent question, and probably one that we ought to ask ourselves more often.

“Of course,” I reply almost instinctively.

“Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”

“Erm…no. It’s the most expensive day of the year.”

They summed up that I probably didn’t know what it meant to 谈恋爱.

My reply was glaringly pragmatic and held a grain of truth, but was incomplete.

In our 23 years together, we never felt the need to celebrate Valentine’s because there is so much joy in every single moment we have had together. While we do from time to time feel slight pangs of not receiving gifts from each other on special occasions, we have come to realise that it is time together that we treasure the most.

Time where we put aside everything else, and just lose ourselves in each other’s company, talking about small funny moments, or the beautiful span of years that have passed and the children that God has blessed us with. Our best moments are spent in gratitude for the gifts that God Himself has given, that money cannot buy.

Timelines

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Dearest Faith,

Where have the years gone? The last decade has been a blur of diaper changing and washing milk bottles. It is easy to forget that we started out on this adventure together, you and I, and in all the hustle and bustle of activity, that we were called to remember that “in all things, He might have the preeminence” (Col 1:18).

It was so good to hold your hand tonight and recount the years in prayer and thanksgiving as we walked up and across Benjamin Sheares.

Do you know that I’ve had the privilege of being in love with you almost three quarters of my life? Blessed man that I am! There are times when I hold your hand and know there will come a day when one of our hands will be cold and vacated of the person that dwelt within. A wistful pang fills my heart at the thought, but even now I have received far more blessing than I deserve. We need so much to share this abundance with everyone around in the same manner Christ gave Himself for us; that our children might see His handiwork in us and know Him to be true.

I’m blessed to have walked so much of this journey with you by my side. The years are evident in the lines on our faces. Lines etched by countless moments of divine joy.

Every Chinese New Year I am most thankful for how much you love my family and how much they love you. I’ve never brought home any grades worth bragging, but you are the best thing I have ever brought home to my parents. No husband could be prouder.

I love you, wife of my youth. You are a living parable of Christ and His bride to me.

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A Better Internet for All

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“So, what do you do at Google?”

Not too long ago, there was all this talk about digital immigrants vs digital natives. It was a classic age divide: everyone born before the internet became mainstream was an immigrant; everyone born after, a native. There were also slight discriminatory undertones: natives knew their way around while immigrants were the picture of the old grandmother trying to use a mobile phone for the first time.

But there’s us. People who’ve been around before the internet, saw it blossom, took it in and nurtured it in our own way. We participated in forums and mailing lists, shaping HTML specifications; contributed to Blogger templates (when it was still Pyra); celebrated when the word “Blog” was seen on advertisements the very first time (if you must know, the first very public instance of “Blog” in Singapore advertising was on a huge Nokia billboard along the ECP); made the very best friends through IRC…the list goes on. The internet has been a major part of our lives, and we were there in its infancy.

As millions in Asia come on to the internet for the first time, they face a vastly different landscape from when I first began. Things are simpler to use, yet much more complex in nature. There are many ways to use this amazing medium for good, and there are also many ways to use it for evil.

I was interested in this role at Google because there is a need to help protect internet users from the relentless efforts of bad actors out there to deceive, cheat and scam others. My colleagues work on systems to warn people of unsafe sites and stop deceitful advertising on the web.

Me? I’m here to help users become better at protecting themselves, and ensuring that their experience on the web is a positive one. It is both about knowledge (ensure that your connections are secure before conducting online transactions, for example) and about culture (how do we handle online discussions without descending to name-calling and bullying?).

The internet has played a huge part in my growing up. I have met many amazing people from whom I learned from and shared with a great number of things. It opened up the whole world to me as a young man back in the day, and I hope for it to remain a place that showcases the uplifting, enlightening and inspiring stories in our communities; where young people and newcomers are protected, not exploited; a medium that allows us to create and spread the good we want to leave behind for other digital citizens - immigrant or native.

This is what I do. This is the new chapter of my service.

About

The weblog of Lucian Teo who resides in Singapore. He is husband to the most beautiful wife, father to the most amazing kids. Photographer, storyteller, all-round nice guy [citation needed].

He also blogs about Gov2.0, Storytelling, User Experience Design and Social Media at blog.lucianteo.com.

He can be contacted at lucian@tribolum.com.

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