SINGAPORE - Prime Ministers and potentates from some two dozen nations, joined by close friends of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, gathered here on Saturday to bid a final farewell to the man who often was called upon to step in to explain Asia to a global audience confounded by its complexities.
"The world is a better place because of Lee Kuan Yew," said Prof Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and Mr Lee's friend for more than four decades. "He taught us about the way Asians think about problems and explained to us what development meant in a practical sense. But he also told us: 'We can do that much, and beyond that, somebody else has to do certain things'."
The former Harvard professor, four months older than Mr Lee, fashioned late US President Richard Nixon's diplomatic breakthrough with China. He was speaking to local media about his long friendship with Mr Lee, whom he first met in 1967.
Describing Mr Lee as "an amazing phenomenon" Dr Kissinger said theirs had not been a friendship based on doing things for each other, but learning from each other.
There, he acknowledged Mr Lee's role in helping shaping the US approach to China, which continues to evolve.
"He never came and said you have to do this or that. He was never a lobbyist," said Dr Kissinger. "He would say: 'Here is a situation and you have to understand it if you want to succeed.' He explained what the Chinese were doing in their internal politics, their economic policies. I found his advice extremely helpful and so did a succession of presidents and others in practically every American administration."
The 91-year-old Dr Kissinger is here as part of the US presidential delegation led by former President Bill Clinton, the popular elder statesman of the Democratic Party. He is the oldest among the overseas dignitaries attending the funeral.