What Mr Nathan said about:

Former president S R Nathan at his residence on June 25, 2015.
Former president S R Nathan at his residence on June 25, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

LEAVING SCHOOL AT 16

"I got sacked and decided not to give further pain to my mother. So I ran. The thing is, when you are poor, others look down on you. You get one or two teachers who are compassionate, but most only look after the well-to-do."

SURVIVING WAR

"I learnt that as long as you spoke up for something and were not going to be killed for it - but were prepared for that - I would be okay."

BEING A SOCIAL WORKER

"If you are really devoted to social work, you carry your problems with you and they bug you until you find a solution. Of course, you don't tell your wife all that."

AGITATING FOR TRADE UNIONS

"It was to seek justice because conditions after (World War II) were not settled. The salary scales hadn't taken into account the reality after the war, so incomes were inadequate. The trade union movement showed me that you didn't have to be a highly qualified person so long as you had common sense and an ability to argue your case. Normally, you are the subordinate, so you wouldn't challenge your employer. But in the labour movement, you went to the table and talked to employers. That gave you confidence."

HIS ROLE IN THE 1974 LAJU HOSTAGE CRISIS

"Laju was nothing. It was just an instance. We all carry these responsibilities in public service."

BECOMING PRESIDENT IN 1999

"My first difficulty was Lee Kuan Yew: How do I maintain a relationship with somebody with whom I was a subordinate? But he said, 'No. You are no longer my subordinate. All those fellows are watching. Forget about the past.' "

BEING PRESIDENT

"As President, I am very private. I am not as free to mix as I was. But there is one area of the presidency that fits me well, and that is the community... So, when we have Open House or when I am walking in East Coast Park, people greet me and want to take a picture. It gives me a certain satisfaction because I remember, as a boy, the circumstances in which my family lived... so I can empathise with the struggles, the preoccupations, the daily concerns of heartlanders."

HOW FLEETING FAME IS

"We have many people who befriend you, but the moment you are out of office, they will ignore you. I have seen that in my own career, each time I changed a job. When then PM Lee Kuan Yew sent me somewhere else, they would say, 'This fellow is finished.' Then they see me bouncing back and they come back to me."

•These are extracts from Mr S R Nathan's interviews with The Straits Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'What Mr Nathan said about:'. Print Edition | Subscribe