National Day Rally – Why and how it started

15 Aug 2019 < 1 min read

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The annual National Day Rally (NDR) will be held on Sunday, 18 August 2019 at the Institute of Technical Education.

A major fixture on Singapore’s political calendar, the National Day Rally is a platform for the Prime Minister to address the nation, give a report card on the progress we have made, share important policy matters and also a heads up on Singapore’s future challenges. 

At the first NDR, held on the eve of National Day, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressed community leaders behind closed doors. In a span of about 37 minutes, Mr Lee delivered his speeches in English, Hokkien, and Malay.

In his rally speech, Mr Lee called for racial integration in Singapore, “I say integration is possible – not to make us one grey mass against our will, against our feelings, against our inclinations, but to integrate us with common values, common attitudes, a common outlook, certainly a common language and eventually, a common culture.”

Mr Lee also explained why the NDR would be held every year. “Every year, on this 9th August for many years ahead – how many, I do not know – we will dedicate ourselves anew to consolidate ourselves to survive; and, most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built and what our forebears will build up,” he said.

The 1971 rally was the first to be televised. Since then, the National Day Rally has been broadcast live annually.   

Watch the reel from the National Archives and other clips here.