Singapore has lost our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, on 23 March 2015 at 3.18am. Much had been mentioned about how our former prime minister had transformed Singapore from a village to a metropolis. While we all know that he was extremely intelligent, even with Dr Henry Kissinger, Former US Secretary of State mentioning that, it was not explicitly stated that Mr Lee was exceptionally gifted. That means his intelligence quotient would put him at 99.99% of the population.
As I went through his achievements, his habits, his thoughts and more through the daily deluge of articles about him, I realised that he must have been exceptionally gifted, or even profoundly gifted. He had high verbal and linguistic intelligence, and always demanded accurate and precise meanings of words. He had an extensive vocabulary, and would use them to great effect, especially when talking to politicians and academics. One such example was, “If they could not turn in a profit, “we should have no compunction in closing a service down“, he warned when talking about setting up of Singapore Airlines.”
When it came to speaking to the common man, he was able speak to the their level. He was able to code-switch easily. Apart from that, he was fluent in other languages, such as Malay, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. In fact, during one fateful speech in Kuala Lumpur in May 1965, he spoke Malay so well that some of the Alliance members realised that he could speak better than them. He also spent decades in mastering Mandarin, hiring tutors to coach him.
It must be noted that he suffered from mild dyslexia. It affected his learning of Mandarin. It could have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him, because many dyslexics are good communicators, as they use that to compensate for the reading difficulties. They also see problems differently from others, due to the way their brains process information. This could also have meant that he could tackle our problems from another perspective. Due to him being exceptionally gifted, it had also managed to mask his issues. He would be what we call twice-exceptional.
When he was in secondary school, he would constantly be looking for verbal sparring partners. He enjoyed arguments, according to Robert Kuok, a Malaysian tycoon who was his former classmate. Mr Richard Hu mentioned that despite not being trained in finance and economics, Mr Lee more than made up for that with ‘an acute mind with the ability to calculate implications, as well as by reading widely’. Mrs Jean Marshall, widow of Mr David Marshall, first Chief Minister of Singapore, said that he was ‘an exceptional speaker’, and ‘a master of silence and the pause’.
He also had a sense of humour. Once he asked a lady who was pursuing her PhD whether she had a boyfriend. She replied she did not have. He told her that she would have a more satisfying life if she had a boyfriend. In closing, he encouraged her to have both a marriage and her PhD.
Apart from these, he was obsessed with Singapore. Many gifted people are obsessed with various topics, choosing to learn their pet topics at depth. Mr Lee? He had both breadth and depth.
Foreign affairs? Check.
Much had been mentioned about his red box, where Mr Heng Swee Keat mentioned how work would arrive in that box and he and the other staff would have to get to work immediately.
It was also revealed that he had high naturalistic intelligence, as he would even be interested in all sorts of tree and plants when he travelled overseas and he would find out whether they would be suitable for Singapore. It was also revealed that he knew the latin names of the trees and plants. He was also quite involved in success of the Singapore zoo.
He could not keep his mind off from thinking. Even when he was doing physiotherapy, he was actually thinking about matters and brought that up during a parliament sitting when he was 85 years old. Another politician, K Shanmugam, mentioned that he would call people up at 3am just to discuss matters.
Perhaps he is what I call a grandmaster in chess, someone who has thought through many moves ahead, and had anticipated the opponent’s possible moves. Check out more characteristics of gifted individuals.