Singapore watched its new leader being sworn in on Thursday. Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, the son of the island nation's first prime minister, is only the third prime minister to take office since independence from Britain in 1965. He faces a very different set of challenges than his predecessors.

On a typically warm, humid evening set among the lush grounds of the government's Istana complex, 52-year-old Mr. Lee took the prime minister's oath of office, and almost immediately began to look ahead to future leaders.

"The next generation of leaders must come from the post-independence generation. Hence leadership succession will be one of my top priorities," he said.

The leadership of his predecessors, Mr. Goh Chok Tong and before that his father Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, gave Singaporeans a level of wealth other Asians can only dream of. But now many of the country's youth are aspiring for less tangible goals, such as greater freedom to express themselves and a more clearly defined culture.

Tammie Lim, a 20-year-old who attends school in Britain, is shopping with friends on Singapore's Orchard Road.

"I study in the U.K., and people ask what is the Singapore culture, what's their first language, and I can't even answer it myself because it's like a mixture," she said.

In his inaugural speech, Mr. Lee also made reference to the U.S.-led war on terror, saying it could destabilize race relations in Singapore.

Ethnic Chinese are the largest majority in Singapore, but there are sizable minorities of ethnic Malays and Indians. Singapore has cracked down on suspected Islamic militants who it says have links to regional terror organizations.