Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I understand that you’re a busy man.
Not at all. The issue of family is something that is dear and important to me, and I feel that in Singapore, the concept of family is falling apart. We’re currently living in a hedonistic world and a society that continually seeks pleasure, and it’s time to take a step back and rethink the values of our community. We have become irresponsible; we have not been good fathers or mothers and as a result, our families are in serious trouble.
Let’s talk about family. How did you and Nina meet?
We are high school sweethearts! My wife, Nina, and I were the first batch of National Junior College students. In fact, our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was our classmate and we would hang out together. Of course, I made the first move back in school and we dated for nine years, through university and National Service, before we got married.
A funny story: we were actually summoned by the college principal for holding hands in public while wearing our school uniforms! The principal gave us a warning for this behaviour, so we stopped holding hands when we were in our uniforms.
What were some of yours’ and Nina’s parenting philosophies?
We believe that parenting comes in stages. When our children were young, our approach was more disciplinarian and we cultivated a behavioural pattern based around positive and negative reinforcement. We should not succumb to the temper tantrums our children throw; when my own kids kick up a fuss in public, I’ll take them somewhere quiet and have a word with them. The idea is to teach them certain acceptable behavioural patterns because if they get used to a wrong pattern, it will become part of their inert behaviour when they grow older.
Often, I see many parents letting their children roam wild when they are young and then, start restricting them when the kids grow older. It should be the other way around! This is why when my children grew older, we started explaining and talking to them instead.
When it came to their studies, we only wanted our children to do their best and we would share our disappointment when we knew they could do better. The results they got were secondary to the importance of the amount of effort they put in though.
You’ve been married to Nina for 36 years! What are the secrets to such a long-lasting marriage?
I believe that a deep sense of trust must be established. The excitement and the wow factor in a marriage will slowly fade away but when the both of you are committed to one another and you’re committed to building trust, then the relationship will reach a deeper level. There will be ups and downs in a marriage and there will be times when you will not be happy with each other, but when the trust has been cemented and you remember the trying moments the both of you have gone through, then, everything will be okay once again.
I’ve always believed that the foundation to a strong marriage is not just love but also a dogged commitment to one another. There will be days when you wake up and don’t feel good, and there will be days when you wake up and feel really excited. However, no matter how we feel, we know we are committed to serve and honour each other.
I tell all the couples I meet that there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people. There are no perfect husbands and wives, no matter how much you think that when the both of you are still dating! We spend our whole lives trying to change our spouses when we should spend that time honouring, cherishing and appreciating them for who they are and what they’re good for.
Have you had any regrets in your life?
There have been several regrets actually. But, if I were to rewind the clock, I would return to the time when my children were still in their adolescent years. You see, at that point of time, I was extremely busy with the opportunities that I was given and the success I had slowly accumulated. I was travelling so much that unfortunately, I was absent from my children’s lives.
It was just for a couple of years but it was during the period when my children’s values were being crystallised and when they were finally forging their own identity. In these crucial years, if you are not intensely engaged in their growth, then the efforts you have made in the past will be wiped out just like that.
Could you share with me what exactly happened?
Sure. My eldest daughter, whom is working with me now on my magic shows, formed her own set of values during adolescence based on her interactions with her friends. I’ve come to realised that, at that age, friends are more important than family. Of course, as you know, she became a single mother.
It took me a long time to really engage with her but thankfully, we did. This whole episode of her being a single mother and me accepting it has demonstrated to her that I love her even though I might disagree with the choice she made.
There have been people who called you a hypocrite because you turned a blind eye to the faults of your daughter.
I think a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something that they’re not. However, I’ve always been a transparent person, so when my daughter became a single mother, I spoke to my church and shared with them my problems. I was very accountable to them and I’ve not tried to make something right when it was wrong.
For my daughter, I’ve always told her that she’s done something wrong but I’ve also always said that there are no illegitimate children on this earth; there are only illegitimate parents. I’ve never said that anybody is perfect and beyond reproach. In fact, it’s probably because I’m so open that my attackers know more about me than other public figures. I’ve never hidden anything. By using my daughter to attack me, it reveals more of themselves than it reveals of me! I love my grandson and he has really pulled the whole family together.
Your stance on homosexuality has been well-documented in the media.
First, I am not just against homosexuality. As a Christian, I am against any form of sexual immorality – whether it’s pre-marital or extra-marital, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual. Objecting to it doesn’t mean that I go around condemning this behaviour. I have friends who are divorced or have slept around, but we still hang out even though I don’t agree with their lifestyles.
Second, I have worked with homosexuals and I’ve never had any problems accepting them. There are actually a few of them on my payroll and I’ve never evaluated them on the basis of their homosexual behaviour; I evaluate them based on their competence and I’ve never discriminated against them as people.
My main concern is making this particular sexual behaviour a societal norm, where marriages are redefined. I am adamantly against this push to not just normalise this, but to club those on the heads who object to this. To me, it’s not fair that I am unable to speak out and that I’m branded as a hate speech monger and a bigot when I object to this. That’s reverse discrimination.
There’s a lot of inconsistency in the language they use. They are asking for tolerance but they are not tolerant of those who speak out. But, I will go on speaking what I believe is right and what is best for society. Even though not every heterosexual couple will have children, at least every child will have a father and a mother.
I’ve read many reports that children raised by homosexual couples are normal though. What are your thoughts on these studies?
Well, there are many claims and I’ve heard all sorts. But, we have to discriminate between the different studies; we have to evaluate the research and verify the validity. For example, there are people who grow up in terrible, broken families but turn out to be good. That doesn’t mean that it’s fine to grow up in a broken family! I do not think that anyone will doubt that the health of a marriage influences the behaviour of our children.
I’ve never said that homosexuals are bad people and they may actually turn out to be right. But, if you want children to understand the concepts of masculinity and femininity, then the only models are their parents but, increasingly, we have become a society where anything goes and where the traditional family model of a father and mother, is breaking up.
Let me tell you: I would be the first to stand up for a homosexual if he or she is doing a good job in the company but is fired solely on the basis of homosexuality. They’ve been around for a long time and if someone makes them feel lousy, then we should stand up for them.
However, by changing the laws, we have to think of the social implications and costs. We have a responsibility to shape our society into what is good in the long run. Our marriages are already having problems (and I’m not blaming the homosexual community for this); we need to strengthen this and changing the law will only create further complications.
Have you had people come up to you in public and condemn you for your views?
Actually, I’ve had more people come up to me and thank me for speaking up on the issue and making a stand for family! One day, I was strolling in a shopping mall when a man came up to me and said: “Lawrence, may I take a picture with you? Thank you for speaking up and I’m so glad that you dared to be vocal about it.” I’ve had a lot of a public affirmation.
Yes, I do have people coming up to me who asked me to be a bit more careful with my words. But, I am a fearless fighter and I will take anyone on. Maybe that’s why I’m such an irritation to the homosexual community because they cannot upset me!