By Jeremy Au Yong U.S. Bureau Chief In New York, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2014
AMERICAN dignitaries and global figures paid tribute to former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in New York on Sunday, when he became the first Singaporean to receive the Atlantic Council's Global Citizen Award.
At a ceremony, the likes of former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger and former US envoy to Singapore Jon Huntsman hailed Mr Lee as one of the world's foremost statesmen.
Dr Kissinger, who gave the opening remarks at the event, described Mr Lee as "one of the great men of our time" and noted that his forceful streak had been evident decades ago.
He said of the time he first met Mr Lee at Harvard University in the 1960s: "He came to my attention when he told some faculty members with whom he didn't agree, 'You make me sick'."
Dr Kissinger is among the previous recipients of the award from the US think-tank. Others include Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.
The award recognises global leaders who have made exceptional and distinctive contributions to the strengthening of the transatlantic relationship.
This year's ceremony was held at the Hall of Ocean Life in the American Museum of Natural History. Mr Lee did not attend it and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam accepted the award on his behalf.
In remarks before presenting the award, Mr Huntsman, now Governor of Utah, said he was grateful for all the wisdom and advice Mr Lee shared with him.
"His astute world view shaped by over five decades of leadership pervades any national or cultural boundaries," Mr Huntsman said.
Mr Shanmugam, in turn, said Mr Lee has always been a strong advocate for the US, even when such views were unpopular.
"He was certainly one of the most outspoken advocates for the US presence, both economic and military, in Asia and... he did so in the 1960s and 1970s long before it was fashionable to say so.
"He knew that the US presence was vital to maintaining peace and balance in Asia as the Asian economies grew in the last 50 years. And that has contributed significantly to American prosperity and security."