Our school is well known in our neighborhood. It has primary and secondary
sessions. Many eminent people have graduated from its portals. Some are
ministers, businessmen or scientists. There is a strong parent-support group
which organizes activities to help the school. However, the person the school
feels the most indebted to is Mr Lee Kim Zew, the famous philanthropist. His
forefathers had donated generously to our school, but Mr Lee exceeded their
On the evening of June 12, 2008, the school staff gathered
in the Imperial Restaurant. They had come to attend a dinner to honor Mr Lee for
his generous help in the past. The teachers and representatives from parents and
students were at their tables awaiting the arrival of the philanthropist himself
The majority of philanthropists are humble people and they shun the limelight.
Mr Lee, however, was an exception. He was a businessman and liked publicity. It
was therefore gratifying to him that his arrival at the restaurant was greeted
with arousing applause. A few reporters were present and light bulbs flashed as
his pictures were taken. He was ceremoniously escorted to the VIP dining table
which was covered in a resplendent red. A
plate of cold appetizers promptly appeared on the table for the consumption of
the distinguished guests.
The Chairman of the night's proceedings, Mr Tan, went on stage. He lauded the
distinguished guests' generosity and help to society. Then he invited Mr Lee to
the stage to make a speech. As Mr Lee got up from his chair, an inexperienced
waiter moved forward with a bottle of champagne. Mr Lee, upon rising up,
collided with the waiter. The contents of the wine bottle spilled all over the
visibly shocked guest. There was a pinkish stain on his spotless white shirt.
Everyone at the table was momentarily shocked. Then, all at once, they moved to
help the guest.
It was then that Mr Lee showed his indignation. Face flushed red with
irritation and embarrassment, he brushed aside all attempts at helping him wipe
his shirt. We could see that his pride had been hurt and he was trying to
recover his lost dignity. The Chairman wisely left him alone beyond the act of
offering a clean dry cloth for him to wipe his shirt. Directing a
baleful stare at the cowering and
unfortunate waiter, Mr Lee made his way as dignified as he could, to the stage.
The guests recovered from their embarrassment at seeing the sorry spectacle.
They warmly applauded his courage in going up to the stage.
Mr Lee mounted the steps, pleased that he was on top of the situation. But as
he faced the microphone and reached into the breast pocket of his coat, we saw
him frown. His notes for his speech were all soggy and limp with the spilled
wine. Mr Lee flushed again, but only for an instant. Then he regained his
composure and showed why he was such a great businessman. With dignity and
charm, he declared, "Only I can make a speech in such wet weather." When
everyone clapped and cheered, he knew that he had carried the day with him. He
had saved himself and the organizers from a potentially embarrassing situation.
Mr Lee carried on with his impromptu speech, punctuated by spontaneous clapping
and cheering by the guests. At the end of his brief ten-minute speech, the
people gave him a standing ovation.
The next day, the press carried an article on the dinner. Mr Lee was praised
for his courage and dignity in carrying out his speech despite the accident. Mr
Lee must have felt very pleased that he had got the better of the incident. The
next year, he even increased his donation to the school. As for the unfortunate
waiter, he was spared any recrimination as everyone recognized that it was not
his fault and his remorse was punishment enough.