Lee Kuan Yew: Measure of the man
A STORY MADE THE ROUNDS in Singapore a few years back that went like this: Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew returned from a private visit to India with a small bolt of silk of extraordinary design. He consulted his tailor immediately, who assured him there was just enough fabric to fashion a suit that would fit him perfectly.
Ecstatic, he dashed off to an official meeting in Hong Kong with Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, bringing the silk with him. Following the meeting, he couldn’t resist sharing his excitement with Tung, and asked if he could see his tailor for a second opinion. Tung’s tailor was flabbergasted at the beauty of the silk, took Lee’s measurements, and told him he could easily make him a suit and an extra pair of trousers.
Although Lee was perplexed, he said nothing because he was already late for a flight to Washington, where he was scheduled to see US President Bill Clinton. Following the meeting, he asked to see Clinton’s tailor, who took his measurements, and confidently told him he could make two suits and an extra pair of trousers from the bolt of Indian silk.
“What is it about your tailors,” Lee later asked the American president, “that makes them so much better than tailors in Singapore and Hong Kong? Mine said he could make me a suit out of this bolt of silk. Tung’s tailor said he could make me a suit and an extra pair of trousers. Your tailor, Mr President, can make me two suits and an extra pair of trousers. Is it your technology? Your superior productivity?”
“Certainly not, Senior Minister,” replied Clinton. “It’s simply that the further away you are from Singapore, the smaller you become.”