The spirit of ’68

26 08 2012

1968 was a year that was of special significance for me, being one during which my sister and companion through most of my childhood arrived in the world and when a very special visitor, Mr John Gorton, the then Prime Minister of Australia visited my home in Toa Payoh. It was also the year when we got our first telephone – and when I had my first phone call – one from my mother after she had given birth to my sister.

1968 was also a special year in many ways to Singapore, then in its third year of a reluctantly achieved independence. Despite the uncertainty that accompanied Singapore’s separation from a very brief merger with a Malaysia it had been economically linked to for much of its history, Singapore had emerged from the first three years with much optimism for the future. That this was so, was very much evident in an address made by then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, on the occasion of the third National Day in which he spoke of the “three remarkable years” in which “on our own, we have done better than in any three previous years of our history”. It was indeed a remarkable three years. The spirit and determination that its people had shown in the three years to overcome the odds was certainly on show during the celebration of Singapore’s independence that year, the parade, on Singapore’s third National Day.

National Day Parades of the early years even not as entertaining and spectacular as the parades of today are were nevertheless something Singaporeans could and would look forward to. Many lined the streets where the marching contingents and columns of military vehicles on display passed just to catch a glimpse of it. Parades were also shown live on television and 1968 was no exception.

The parade of 1968 was one that was to be different from the two previous parades, and perhaps reflecting the sentiment of the day, the skies opened up and it poured on the parade, the participants and the many who had gathered on the padang and on the streets to watch it. Despite the sheets of rain that fell that morning, no one left, and the parade was to go on – many watching on the streets without umbrellas either weathered the storm all drenched – or found innovative ways to seek shelter – some were seen to use upturned chairs to stand under.

That spirit was certainly one that reflected the spirit demonstrated by Singaporeans during those three years – faced with the storm of uncertainly of the times – instability and unemployment, they stood and not just weathered the storm, but came together as a people – diverse in cultures and in social status – but one as a nation to emerge from the storm stronger and with the optimism that was to drive the progress that we were to see … a spirit that certainly lives on today – and one we should call on to face any challenges the future would hold.

Do visit the NDP68 Facebook Application at http://www.ndp68.sg/ to find out more on the spirit of 1968.


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