Among family and friends, former Senior Minister of State for National Development and Finance and Olympian Dr Tan Eng Liang launched his autobiography titled “Simple Beginnings: Building a life of integrity, resilience and service” at UTown on Saturday morning.
The 190-page autobiography was inspired by a desire to share his life stories with his five grandchildren, and was penned with his daughter, Lynn over a period of two years.
His close friend of over 60 years, Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh said of Dr Tan in his speech at the launch, “The test of a man is whether a man changes after becoming rich and powerful, and despite his extraordinary success, he did not change. He is someone from an ordinary, middle-class family who has made Singapore proud in many ways.”
International Olympic Committee Member Ng Ser Miang also described Dr Tan’s passion and dedication in serving athletes as well as the SEA Games Federation.
Said Dr Tan, “I am very humbled with the turn-out and support of my family and friends. I wanted to record and document my stories so that I can share with my children and grandchildren the enriching experiences I was fortunate enough to have gone through. I hope that I can play a part in inspiring the younger generation to believe that they can achieve their dreams if they try hard, do their best and never give up.”
The event was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, former Minister Lee Yock Suan and former Ministers of State Ch’ng Jit Koon and Dr Ker Sin Tze, and other former political colleagues and prominent members from the sports fraternity.
The book is on sale at major bookstores and on the website of its publisher, Graceworks, at www.graceworks.com.sg
About Dr Tan Eng Liang
Some may know of Dr Tan Eng Liang’s involvement with sports and politics. Not many would know that this cancer survivor once defied doctors’ orders to travel to the 2008 Olympic Games because of a slipped disc just 10 days before he departed for Beijing as Chef de Mission. He endured on a cocktail of painkillers and led Team Singapore to a silver – Singapore’s first Olympic medal after a 48-year medal drought.
Not many would also know this 12-time Chef de Mission, resumed his duties just one month after undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer, leading Team Singapore to a record outing at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Such is his dedication to sports and his strong sense of responsibility that there was never any doubt that he would do the job he had been appointed for to the best of his abilities.
Professor Tommy Koh considers him “one of Singapore’s most outstanding sons”. The story of Dr Tan Eng Liang is one of resilience, hard work and passion. The only elected Member of Parliament who has competed for Singapore at the Olympic Games, Dr Tan’s contributions to sports and public service are intrinsically linked to the glamourous achievements of the athletes and the nation, although he has never allowed the credit due him to take centre stage.
As a young boy growing up in Pasir Panjang, he and his brothers Eng Chai and Eng Bock learnt to swim in the open sea. His love of sports was evident in his early days when he put his studies on the back burner, resulting in a failed attempt to enter medical school as he pursued a spot on the water polo team to represent Singapore at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
He later did well enough in the Science cohort at the University of Malaya to attain first class honours, and go on to become the first Singaporean to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he obtained a doctoral degree in Chemistry.
In 1972, as a 35-year-old man with a young family, he was asked to stand as a People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate in the General Election. He was uncontested in his first-term as a Member of Parliament for the River Valley constituency and won with 81.82 per cent of votes cast in his second term against Wu Kher of the Workers’ Party.
He was then appointed the first Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority to spearhead urban planning in 1974.
A year later, he was called to the Istana by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who wanted him to swear in as one of those who would form the Government. Dr Tan turned up with no idea what his designation or salary would be, and it was only at swearing-in that he read he was going to be Senior Minister of State for Ministry of National Development, and would be receiving a pay cut of 50% from his job as a technical director in the private sector.
Under his 16-year watch as Chairman of the then-Singapore Sports Council, he led the charge to build sports complexes so that Singaporeans can access sports facilities within 3 to 4 kilometres of their residence. He initiated Sports for All programmes and pushed for greater emphasis on support for elite athletes training to represent Singapore.
The father of three and grandfather of five retired from politics in 1980 and spent the later part of his career working in public-listed firms including Wuthelam Holdings with Goh Cheng Liang, managing over 100 companies including Nippon Paint Southeast Asia and overseeing the construction of Liang Court and Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
From the days of wearing hand-sewn swimming trunks to becoming an Olympian, he shares an intimate account of life experiences from his childhood, from sports and politics. He attributes his enriching experiences to serendipity, his values, his faith and the love and support from his family, especially his wife of almost 50 years, Kathryn.
Even at 79 years old, he continues to serve as the Vice-President of the Singapore National Olympic Council. Last year, during Singapore’s Jubilee celebrations, he led Team Singapore as Chef de Mission at the 28th SEA Games to win a record haul of medals on home soil.
Format: 250 x 210mm
Binding: Perfect bound soft cover with flaps
Colour: Full-colour throughout
Available at all good bookstores and e-store of www.graceworks.com.sg at $40.00
Publisher: Graceworks Publishing
Author: Dr Tan Eng Liang & Ms Lynn Tan
Designer: Intent Design Pte Ltd
Dedicated to:Joshua, Ariane, Sophie, Samantha & Emma (Grandchildren of Dr Tan Eng Liang and Mrs Kathryn Tan)
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