[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Friday, December 05, 2008

[Meeting the President of Singapore]
Every trip to the Istana is different. And every meeting with the President of Singapore is different.

The recent Tea with the President event was special. It was held inside the Istana building at both the Dining Hall and State Room.

The Dining Hall is usually open to the public during Istana Open House. However, the layout of the room is different. During Istana Open House, there would be a display of items presented to the President from visitors around the world. Other times, parties are held on the open lawn at the Istana grounds.

At the Prime Minister's recent swearing-in ceremony, I was at another room on the side of the Istana. The main function was going on in the State Room.

Here's a group photo of the six most influential people in Singapore taken after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was sworn-in for his second term.

But one thing to note, most of the decor in the rooms are similar - chandeliers, paintings and the wooden furniture.

As for close encounters with the President himself, there were many. But the one that I recall most vividly was during Singapore Polytechnic's 50th Anniversary Celebrations where I had the chance to interview him.

Before the interview, I was briefed on the questions to ask him. "Ask only questions related to the event," said a polytechnic staff. So I did.

I recall that during the event, my co-reporter Valerie Low, had asked him something that is still in my mind ever since.

She asked the President which performance he enjoyed the most. But the President did not specifically answer her. Then, she said: "Surely there must have been one performance you enjoyed better than the rest?"

Guess what the President said?

He said: "I love all of them."

So diplomatic.

There are other instances though which I also remember.

I was photographed with the President with a firm handshake during an Istana art event. This was an abrupt one because my colleagues went to have breakfast and when we walked back into the Istana the President was in front of us.

The other was when I asked the President to autograph the article which had my interview with him. It is framed up somewhere in my room. That was while I was volunteering for the President's Challenge.

My first Istana Garden Party. Garden parties are an exciting experience because you get to see a lot of people.

During my second Istana Garden Party, the President walked right into Minister George Yeo's path. And one of the President's aides came really close and nearly knocked him off his track. That was shocking.

Then there were two encounters with the President during SMU's Patron's Day over the last two years.

Every encounter with the President is different. Some are more similar than others.

I wonder when the next one will be.


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