Once a teenage runaway, S R Nathan rose to become two-term president of prosperous, independent Singapore. In this exceptional book, he shares the story of his personal journey, set against the backdrop of modern Singapore history.
He tells his own story, simply and vividly. Accused of theft at the age of 16, he ran away from home. Living by his wits through war and occupation, he found new self-belief in unexpected sources, and experienced the political awakening that shaped so many of his generation. He describes vividly and frankly the momentous events he witnessed: ethnic violence during the war; his working relationships with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam; negotiating with terrorists during the Laju hijacking; sensitivities with Malaysia; and the dilemmas facing the Singapore media.
In 1999, S R Nathan was elected president of Singapore. In the book’s last chapter, he takes the reader behind the scenes in the Istana, and describes his duties and responsibilities as elected president, and how he worked to develop the office and institution. S R Nathan’s compelling story depicts more vividly than ever before the people and circumstances that have made Singapore what it is today.
Mr S R Nathan, former president of Singapore, completed his second and last term of office at the end of August 2011.
Before he was elected president in 1999, he had an illustrious career in the Singapore Public Service, overseeing various portfolios in his 50-year career and spanning the fields of labour welfare and foreign relations. He began his service as a medical social worker, followed by six years as a seaman’s welfare officer and eventually rose to helm the Labour Research Unit as director in January 1964, when he also helped to establish the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).
Following Singapore’s independence in 1965, he served in the nascent Ministry of Foreign Affairs as assistant secretary, before progressing to Home Affairs and then to Defence. He returned to the Foreign Ministry in 1979 as first permanent secretary for almost three years before retiring officially from the civil service.
Subsequently Mr Nathan served a stint as executive chairman of The Straits Times Press before becoming Singapore’s high commissioner to Malaysia (1988–90) and ambassador to the US (1990–6). On his return, he established the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (now the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, RSIS) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and served there until 1999, when he was elected president of Singapore.
Mr Nathan is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Singapore Management University (SMU), as well as at the Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and at NTU. He is also chairman of the CapitaLand Hope Foundation.
He has authored three books. The first, Why Am I Here, details his work assisting seafarers, and the second, Winning Against The Odds, describes the struggles in establishing the NTUC. Mr Nathan has just recently published his personal memoirs entitled An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency, in September 2011.
A highly experienced publishing professional with more than 40 years in the industry, Timothy Auger has been responsible editorially for a wide range of books on Singapore and its neighbours, in his former capacity as Editorial Director of Editions Didier Millet, and more recently through his own company Link Editorial. He worked closely with Singapore’s former President S R Nathan on the preparation of the latter’s memoirs An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency, published in September 2011. Tim was also co-editor, under the leadership of Prof. Tommy Koh, of Singapore: The Encyclopedia. His most recent project is Celebrating the Past, Defining the Future, marking the 200th anniversary of Citigroup worldwide, and prepared in collaboration with Citigroup, Inc. in New York. Earlier in his career, Timothy Auger was editorial director of the old-established London publisher, B.T. Batsford Ltd. He graduated from Christ Church, Oxford University.
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