Monday, September 24, 2012

Suu Kyi Inspires at U of L

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi spoke this morning at the McConnell Center at University of Louisville.It was one of the most inspiring and moving speeches I have ever seen.

Suu Kyi has worked for more than 20 years to bring democracy to Burma.  She was under house arrest for twenty years.  During that time, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has done all he could to pressure Myanmar -- the junta name for Burma -- to allow democracy and to release Suu Kyi.

Perhaps McConnell's most important contribution is that he would not let the world forget Suu Kyi -- no matter how many years she was imprisoned.

When it comes to democracy, Suu Kyi is like George Washington on steroids.  For so long, it was almost unimaginable that she would ever be released from captivity alive.  Now, she is an elected member of the Burmese Parliament and a Nobel Laureate. It may be overstating it to say that none of this would have been possible but for the help of McConnell, but not by much.  He was pivotal to bringing democracy to Burma.

Suu Kyi cautioned that democracy is fragile there.  They have no rule of law, no independent judiciary.  She voiced a hope for making Burma a safe haven to which Burmese refugees can return, if they so desire.

There were, in fact, many Burmese refugees in the audience at U of L.  Their love for their homeland and gratitude for Suu Kyi touched all of us who witnessed it.

What I learned from Suu Kyi is that courage and good will confer unparalleled dignity.  Suu Kyi said that the best thing about non-violence -- and not hating one's adversary -- is the amount of time and energy it frees up.  She said that she never hated the military that imprisoned her. The daughter of a great military commander, she hated many actions that the military took to suppress democracy, but she never hated her opponents.  Indeed, Suu Kyi made the remarkable statement that she does not know what it feels like to hate. And I believed her.

What an extraordinary woman.

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