“It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
On Wednesday, September 19, Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was presented with Congress’ highest award, the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of her leadership and commitment to human rights in Burma. Her story of courage and commitment deserves widespread recognition and awareness.
Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has received the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor Congress can bestow, at a ceremony Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Later she met with President Obama at the White House.
Members of the U.S. Congress from both chambers and both major political parties gathered to pay tribute to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was first awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008, while she was under 15 years of house arrest in Burma. On Wednesday, she was in the Capitol Rotunda in person, surrounded by congressional leaders, to receive the honor.
Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has been a strong advocate of Suu Kyi and the democracy movement in Burma for almost two decades.
“And it is impossible today, all these years later, not to be moved by the thought, that this most unlikely of revolutionaries may yet witness the deepest longing of her heart,” said McConnell.
An emotional Republican Senator John McCain thanked Suu Kyi for teaching him about courage.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have lived to see this day and to know the people of Burma, whose dignity and rights Aung San Suu Kyi has sacrificed so much to defend, and will one day be free to live with dignity and justice and hope,” said McCain. MORE ON THE AWARD.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burma’s liberation leader Aung San and showed an early interest in Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violent protest. After having long refrained from political activity, she became involved in “the second struggle for national independence” in Myanmar in 1988. She became the leader of a democratic opposition which employs non-violent means to resist a regime characterized by brutality. She also emphasizes the need for conciliation between the sharply divided regions and ethnic groups in her country. The election held in May 1990 resulted in a conclusive victory for the opposition. The regime ignored the election results. Suu Kyi refused to leave the country and for 15 of the past 21 years, she has been kept under strict house arrest.
Suu Kyi’s struggle is one of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades. She has become an important symbol in the struggle against oppression.
In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991 to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Norwegian Nobel Committee honored this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.
Aung San Suu Kyi was born on 19 June 1945 in Rangoon (now named Yangon). Her father, Aung San, founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma’s independence from the British Empire in 1947; he was assassinated by his rivals in the same year. She grew up with her mother, Khin Kyi, and two brothers, Aung San Lin and Aung San Oo, in Rangoon. Aung San Lin died at the age of eight, when he drowned in an ornamental lake on the grounds of the house. Her elder brother immigrated to San Diego, California, becoming a United States citizen. After Aung San Lin’s death, the family moved to a house by Inya Lake where Suu Kyi met people of very different backgrounds, political views and religions. She was educated in Methodist English High School (now Basic Education High School No. 1 Dagon) for much of her childhood in Burma, where she was noted as having a talent for learning languages. She is a Theravada Buddhist.
Coincident with Aung San Suu Kyi’s return to Burma in 1988, the long-time military leader of Burma and head of the ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down. Mass demonstrations for democracy followed that event on 8 August 1988 (8–8–88, a day seen as auspicious), which were violently suppressed in what came to be known as the 8888 Uprising. On 26 August 1988, she addressed half a million people at a mass rally in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital, calling for a democratic government. However in September, a new military junta took power.
Influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi‘s philosophy of non-violence and more specifically by Buddhist concepts, Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics to work for democratization, helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988, but was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. Offered freedom if she left the country, she refused.
One of her most famous speeches was Freedom From Fear, which began: “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
She also believes fear spurs many world leaders to lose sight of their purpose. “Government leaders are amazing”, she once said. “So often it seems they are the last to know what the people want.”
Aung San Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years, on different occasions, since she began her political career, during which time she was prevented from meeting her party supporters and international visitors. In an interview, Suu Kyi said that while under house arrest she spent her time reading philosophy, politics and biographies that her husband had sent her. She also passed the time playing the piano, and was occasionally allowed visits from foreign diplomats as well as from her personal physician.
Excerpts from Wikipedia and a the Press Release – The Nobel Peace Prize 1991″. Nobelprize.org. 20 Sep 2012