Touched by personal thank-you note

Last year, as part of the SG50 Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Government encouraged citizens to do something for the nation. Many responded in different ways.

I sent former president S R Nathan a copy of my book, Tough-Minded, Tender-Hearted Leadership, which is dedicated to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team of key lieutenants.

I was delightfully surprised and deeply touched when Mr Nathan wrote back, for the following reasons:

•He took the trouble to write a thank-you note (the word "thank you" was used twice) to an ordinary citizen, in his own handwriting, even as he was slowly recovering from a stroke. He even included his home address.

•He gave an assurance: "I shall certainly read it with interest but slowly. This is because of my age and recent stroke."

•He remembered the influence of the late Mr Lee and remarked: "Leadership is certainly very important to the late Mr Lee who taught all of us many lessons."

•What an encouragement he gave me when he said: "I trust you will keep well and continue to serve the Lord with your own experiences and life of leadership."

•How often does one get a thank-you letter from a former president? Even though it was a simple thank-you letter, the tone conveyed human warmth and touch.

Mr Nathan was a man with an "attitude of gratitude", and who not only believed in multiculturalism and multiracialism but also practised it.

He will be fondly remembered as a president of the people, for the people, and with the people.

Johnson Lim Teng Kok

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2016, with the headline 'Touched by personal thank-you note'. Subscribe