Singapore National Day Rally

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The National Day Rally (Chinese: 国庆群众大会, Malay: Rapat Umum Hari Kebangsaan) is an annual address that the Prime Minister of Singapore makes to the entire nation, on the first or second Sunday after National Day on 9 August.[1] A yearly event since 1966, the Prime Minister uses the rally to address the nation on its key challenges and announce major policy changes, and is comparable to the State of the Union address delivered by the President of the United States.[2]


The rally began in 1966 as a "private meeting" between the Prime Minister and community leaders. The transcript was released to the media only two weeks later. Only in 1971 did Lee Kuan Yew decide "at the last minute" to televise the speech, which has since been annually broadcast live.[1]

The first rally in 1966 was held on the eve of National Day. Since 1967, the rally has been held at least a week after National Day.

The rally was delivered at the former National Theatre from 1966 to 1983. With the theatre's closure and demolition in 1984, the rally was held at the Singapore Conference Hall for two years before being shifted to Kallang Theatre from 1986 to 2000. In 2001, the rally moved to the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore. Since 2013, Lee Hsien Loong has held his rally at the ITE Headquarters and ITE College Central.[3]

1966 National Day Rally[edit]

The first National Day Rally was held on 8 August 1966 at the National Theatre. A closed-door meeting, Lee Kuan Yew told community leaders, "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."[1]

1971 National Day Rally[edit]

The 1971 rally was the first to be televised, at Lee Kuan Yew's "last minute" decision. Since then, the rally has become "a fixture on the political calendar".[1]

Lee delivered his "cautiously optimistic" speech "off the cuff", remarking, "You have done well - six superb years, a magnificent performance against all the odds, so much so that everybody says, 'But, of course, everybody knows that Singapore is a very well-endowed place...Oh, just natural course of events.' It wasn't, you know. We made it so..."[1]

1981 National Day Rally[edit]

The 1981 rally marked the first time where Cabinet ministers delivered their speeches.[4]

1983 National Day Rally[edit]

At the 1983 rally, Lee Kuan Yew "trotted out facts and figures to show that the more highly educated a woman was, the less likely she was to reproduce", before concluding, "[W]e are really discarding our able parents in the next generation and doubling the less able." The resulting controversy eroded electoral support for his People's Action Party for several years.[1]

1988 National Day Rally[edit]

In 1988, Lee Kuan Yew delivered "one of his most quoted lines": "And even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave, and I feel that something is going wrong, I'll get up."[1]

1991 National Day Rally[edit]

In 1991, Goh Chok Tong delivered his maiden speech at the National Day Rally. He "spoke with a self-deprecating humour that heralded a new, gentler style of governance", which he underscored by remarking, "I am not going to follow [Lee Kuan Yew's] act. I am going to walk my own way."[1]

2002 National Day Rally[edit]

At the 2002 rally, Goh Chok Tong remarked, "Fair-weather Singaporeans will run away whenever the country runs into stormy weather. I call them 'quitters'. Fortunately, 'quitters' are in the minority. The majority of Singaporeans are 'stayers'...As we say in Hokkien, 'pah see buay zao'." His labels generated "much discussion".[1]

2004 National Day Rally[edit]

In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong made his maiden address at the National Day Rally. However, rather than deliver a "cautious speech", he "surprised many by slaughtering a few sacred cows". He promoted a new "teach less, learn more" education policy, introduced a shortened five-day work week for the Civil Service, and, most controversially, mooted the idea of casinos in Singapore.[1] In 1970, Lee Kuan Yew's response to casinos in Singapore had been "no, not over my dead body", though the elder Lee had since changed his mind.[5]

2005 National Day Rally[edit]

In 2005, Lee Hsien Loong adopted the current format of delivering his Malay and Chinese remarks at 6:45 pm, with a break at 7:30 pm, before commencing his English address at 8:00pm. Prior to 2005, the rally was a continuous speech from 8:00pm.[citation needed]

2007 National Day Rally[edit]

In 2007, opposition and Nominated Members of Parliament were invited to the National Day Rally for the first time.[6]

2008 National Day Rally[edit]

In 2008, the English language telecast of the rally, initially scheduled for live broadcast at 8pm on 17 August, was postponed to the next day. The move was to allow Singaporeans to watch Singapore take on China in the women's table tennis finals at the Beijing Olympics. The rally itself proceeded as usual at the University Cultural Centre, but was only broadcast the next day.[7]

2009 National Day Rally[edit]

In 2009, Singaporeans used the Twitter hashtag #ndrsg to tweet about the rally.

2010 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2010 rally was held on the last Sunday of August to avoid clashing with the Youth Olympic Games earlier that month.

2012 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2012 rally marked the second time where Cabinet ministers delivered their speeches at 6.45pm, before the Prime Minister's remarks at 8pm. It was also the first to feature sign-language translation in real time.[1] It was held on the last Sunday of August to facilitate Ramadan festivities.

2013 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2013 rally was the first to be held at the ITE Headquarters and ITE College Central after nine years at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre.[1] Lee said the move was "for a serious purpose - to underscore my longstanding commitment to investing in…every Singaporean".[8]

2015 National Day Rally[edit]

In his 2015 speech, "set within the context impending general election", Lee Hsien Loong "asked for a strong mandate" without being "baldly partisan". Lee also mentioned two ministers, Vivian Balakrishnan and Lim Swee Say, who would respectively be standing in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and East Coast GRC, the two most contested PAP-held constituencies.[9]

2016 National Day Rally[edit]

An hour and 20 minutes into his English remarks at the 2016 rally, Lee Hsien Loong suddenly took ill at 9.20pm. Half an hour later, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced that Lee would resume his speech. The Prime Minister's Office also said that Lee had felt "unsteady because of prolonged standing, heat and dehydration", adding, "His heart is fine and he did not have a stroke." At 10.40pm, he returned to speak for another 15 minutes. By then, he looked well and thanked the audience for waiting for him, who gave him a standing ovation.[10]

2017 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2017 rally was held on 20 August 2017 at ITE College Central. Lee's speech mainly focused on the obstacles which Singapore was currently facing, namely Diabetes, Pre-school and Technology.[11]

2018 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2018 rally was held at the ITE College Central on 19 August 2018,[12] with the rally focused on trending issues such as housing, healthcare and cost of living. Lee introduced, among other policies, the Merdeka Generation Package (a spin-off from the Pioneer Generation Package), the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme and a revamped Home Improvement Programme. He also announced that Singapore would be seeking a second inscription on UNESCO's World Heritage List of her hawker culture, and that Senior Minister of State and Mayor Maliki Osman would be leading an improvement project for Geylang Serai.[13]

2019 National Day Rally[edit]

The 2019 rally was held on 18 August 2018 at ITE College Central[14]. In his speech he highlighted were education bursaries and subsidies[15], along with the mention of successful bursary holders who were invited along[16], Pulau Brani's redevlopment plan as "Downtown South"[17], the ongoing China–United States trade war[18] and how Singapore was involved in[19], climate changes[20]; its seriousness and their measures[21], and changes to the re-employment and retirement ages which will take effect by 2022[22]. Lee also announced that SG Bicentennial Experience, an exhibit held at Fort Canning in commemoration of the bicentennial anniversary of modern foundation of Singapore[23], was extended from mid-September to 31 December due to overwhelming responses and success[24].



The programme used to be aired as a single slot programme from 8 pm onwards. Since 2005, the rally is usually broadcast live from 6.45pm till 10pm (SST), with a break between 7.30pm and 8pm (the break was extended to 8.15 pm from 2017 onwards), across MediaCorp channels.[25] However, most English rallies were over-run and most programmes on MediaCorp had postponed to the following week but some programmes were shown immediately after the English rally. Most programmes on MediaCorp would resume earlier at 9:30pm or later at 11:00pm if the rally over-ran the scheduled time.

Platform/Language English
Dubbing in English
Dubbing in Mandarin
Dubbing in Malay
Dubbing in Tamil
TV Channel 5
Channel NewsAsia (8pm-10pm)
Channel 8
Channel U
Suria Vasantham
Radio 938LIVE Capital 95.8FM Warna 94.2FM Oli 96.8FM
Online Channel NewsAsia Live
toggle (Chinese) - -

From 2001 to 2004, the rally was also broadcast on the now-defunct SPH MediaWorks' channels.


Transcripts of the rally speech are usually available for viewing after the event at MediaCorp news portals, Singapore Press Holdings news portals, the website of the Prime Minister's Office and the online press centre[permanent dead link] of the Government of Singapore. Highlights of the speeches will usually be reported by Singapore newspapers in the following days.

List of rallies[edit]

Year Date Venue Speaker Transcript
1966 8 August 1966 (Monday) National Theatre Lee Kuan Yew
1967 16 August 1967 (Wednesday)
1968 16 August 1968 (Friday)
1969 16 August 1969 (Saturday)
1970 16 August 1970 (Sunday)
1971 15 August 1971 (Sunday)
1972 13 August 1972 (Sunday)
1973 26 August 1973 (Sunday)
1974 18 August 1974 (Sunday)
1975 17 August 1975 (Sunday)
1976 15 August 1976 (Sunday)
1977 14 August 1977 (Sunday)
1978 13 August 1978 (Sunday)
1979 19 August 1979 (Sunday)
1980 17 August 1980 (Sunday)
1981 16 August 1981 (Sunday)
1982 15 August 1982 (Sunday)
1983 14 August 1983 (Sunday)
1984 19 August 1984 (Sunday) Singapore Conference Hall
1985 18 August 1985 (Sunday)
1986 17 August 1986 (Sunday) Kallang Theatre
1987 16 August 1987 (Sunday)
1988 14 August 1988 (Sunday)
1989 20 August 1989 (Sunday)
1990 26 August 1990 (Sunday)
1991 11 August 1991 (Sunday) Goh Chok Tong English
1992 16 August 1992 (Sunday) English
1993 15 August 1993 (Sunday) English
1994 21 August 1994 (Sunday) English
1995 20 August 1995 (Sunday) English
1996 18 August 1996 (Sunday) English
1997 24 August 1997 (Sunday) English
1998 23 August 1998 (Sunday) English
1999 22 August 1999 (Sunday) English
2000 20 August 2000 (Sunday) English
2001 19 August 2001 (Sunday) University Cultural Centre English
2002 18 August 2002 (Sunday) English
2003 17 August 2003 (Sunday) English
2004 22 August 2004 (Sunday) Lee Hsien Loong English
2005 21 August 2005 (Sunday) English
2006 20 August 2006 (Sunday) English
2007 19 August 2007 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English
2008 17 August 2008 (Sunday) English
2009 16 August 2009 (Sunday) English
2010 29 August 2010 (Sunday) English
2011 14 August 2011 (Sunday) English
2012 26 August 2012 (Sunday) English
2013 18 August 2013 (Sunday) ITE College Central English
2014 17 August 2014 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English
2015 23 August 2015 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English
2016 21 August 2016 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English (part 1 · part 2)
2017 20 August 2017 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English
2018 19 August 2018 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English
2019 18 August 2019 (Sunday) Malay · Chinese · English (Pre-event/Actual)


An article titled "Singapore's National Day Rally Speech: A Site of Ideological Negotiation"[26] analyses the inaugural National Day Rally speeches of three Singapore prime ministers. It locates these speeches in the continuous ideological work that the People's Action Party (PAP) government has to do to maintain consensus and forge new alliances among classes and social forces that are being transformed by globalisation. Increasingly, these speeches have had to deal with the contradictions between nation-building and the tensions between the liberal and reactionary tendencies of the global city.

According to Kenneth Paul Tan of the Lee Kuan Yew school of Public Policy:[26] "The rally speech has also been a part of larger celebrations surrounding the commemoration of Singapore's independence gained on 9th August 1965. These celebrations have come to include a short and formal televised National Day message from the Prime Minister, observance ceremonies held at organizations in the public and private sectors, constituency dinners and ministerial speeches, regularly televised music videos of patriotic songs composed for the celebrations, and - most spectacular of all - a National Day parade that since the mid-1980s has included not only a traditional ceremonial segment , but also high-tech mass performances and re-enactments of the official "Singapore Story" that end on a climax of fireworks (Kong and Yeoh, 1997).[27] Clearly the symbolic and formal aspects of the speech are just as important as its contents, taking Singaporeans collectively to an emotional high. This is especially so during general election years, when the prime minister announces the PAP's "report card" of achievements in government as well as the distribution of election "goodies" to the Singaporean masses - the lower income voters in particular - as a way of reinforcing the image of government as benevolent provider."

"As an annual injection of patriotism, the National Day celebrations help to inoculate Singaporeans against the disenchantment that accompanies advanced industrial societies, whether they are formally classified as capitalist or socialist, democratic or authoritarian. Singaporeans are reminded every year of the PAP's pioneer leaders - Lee Kuan yew and his "lieutenants" (Lam and Tan,1999)[28] - who have been written into the official "Singapore Story" as the brave and far-sighted founders of contemporary Singapore (Loh,1998).[29] Both volumes of Lee's own memoirs - tellingly titled the Singapore Story - have become central texts of the Singapore Story, supplemented by glossy publications such as the National Heritage Boards (1998) Singapore: Journey Into nationhood as well as other educational and information materials"

"The PAP knows that its authority will be secure as long as it remains able to make Singaporeans believe that it can continue to deliver material prosperity and security for all, regardless of race. Therefore, the PAP has had to reassert its relevance constantly by insisting on Singapore's fundamentally vulnerable nature and condition, an insistence that has sustained a culture of fear and arrested the risky global environment, the PAP also knows that the transactional basis on which its authority is built has become fragile and therefore needs to be strengthened by moral authority, what Burns (1978)[30] has identified as a transformative mode of leadership, through which it can uplift, inspire and motivate in times of real crisis."


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Chew, Hui Min (20 August 2016). "From babies to casinos: 11 memorable National Day Rally speeches". The Straits Times.
  2. ^ Tan, Martino (20 August 2016). "PM Lee mentions "Pokémon" in his National Day rally trailer".
  3. ^ "PM Lee to deliver National Day Rally speech at ITE Headquarters and College Central". Channel NewsAsia. Mediacorp. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  4. ^ "National Day Rally - Speeches By Dr Tony Tan, Lim Chee Onn, Goh Chok Tong And Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew".
  5. ^ "His decades in Parliament". The New Paper. 27 March 2015.
  6. ^ Chong, Zi Liang (24 August 2015). "Opposition parties hold outreach events". The Straits Times. Singapore.
  7. ^ "Broadcast of National Day Rally English speech postponed to Monday". Channel NewsAsia. Mediacorp. 16 August 2007.
  8. ^ "Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2013 (English)". Prime Minister's Office.
  9. ^ Koh, Gillian (24 August 2015). "[The Angle] The Politics of the NDR 2015 Speech". Institute of Policy Studies.
  10. ^ hermes (21 August 2016). "Anxiety, then relief, as PM Lee Hsien Loong completes rally after taking ill". Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  11. ^ "National Day Rally 2017: Six key takeaways".
  12. ^ hermesauto (19 March 2018). "National Day Rally 2018 to be held on Aug 19".
  13. ^ "National Day Rally 2018: The 8 things you need to know".
  14. ^ "Highlights: National Day Rally 2019".
  15. ^ "Lower fees at SIT, SUSS, and higher varsity, polytechnic grants from next academic year".
  16. ^ "Govt to beef up preschool subsidies for middle-income families from 2020".
  17. ^ "Pulau Brani to house NTUC's 'Downtown South', attractions akin to Universal Studios Singapore".
  18. ^ "Ongoing trade war could have deep impact on Singapore and its telecoms system, says PM Lee".
  19. ^ "No need for economic stimulus measures yet, but Govt ready to respond if situation gets 'much worse': PM Lee".
  20. ^ "Explainer: Why climate change should matter to Singaporeans and what the Govt is doing about it".
  21. ^ "It will cost S$100b or more over next 50 to 100 years to protect Singapore against rising sea levels: PM Lee".
  22. ^ "Retirement and re-employment ages to be raised by 3 years, CPF contribution rates for older workers to go up".
  23. ^ "The Singapore Bicentennial Official Site".
  24. ^ "NDR 2019: Bicentennial Experience to stay open for an extra 3 months in response to many requests".
  25. ^ "MediaCorp to broadcast PM Lee's Nat'l Day Rally Speech "live" Sunday". Channel NewsAsia. Mediacorp. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  26. ^ a b Tan, Kenneth Paul (August 2007). "Singapore's National Day Rally speech: A site of ideological negotiation". Journal of Contemporary Asia. 37 (3): 292–308. doi:10.1080/00472330701408635. Also available online.
  27. ^ Kong, Lily; Yeoh, Brenda S.A. (March 1997). "The construction of national identity through the production of ritual and spectacle". Political Geography. 16 (3): 213–239. doi:10.1016/0962-6298(95)00135-2.
  28. ^ Er, Lam Peng; Tan, Kevin Yl, eds. (2000). Lee's lieutenants: Singapore's old guard. St. Leonards, NSW.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781864486391.
  29. ^ Loh, Kah Seng (May 2011). "'No more road to walk': cultures of heritage and leprosariums in Singapore and Malaysia". International Journal of Heritage Studies. 17 (3): 230–244. doi:10.1080/13527258.2011.556660.
  30. ^ Burns, James MacGregor (2010). Leadership. Harper Perennial Political Classics Series (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 9780061965579.

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