Use your liberty to promote ours: Aung San Suu Kyi
"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Nobel Peace Prize recipient and leader of the country's movement for democracy, will be addressing members of the Burmese community (at my university) next week," read an email from the special events office recently.
Of course, I instantly applied for a lottery ticket to attend the prestigious and high profile event and then actually won the ticket. But even before I could rejoice at the stroke of luck, I realised after a more thorough read that 'the Lady' is going to be talking in Burmese, sans translation! Only consolation, the address to the Burmese community would be preceded by brief remarks in English to thank the university for an honorary degree she was awarded back in 1997.
I was not dissuaded from attending the event, and decided to see the living legend even if most of what she said was going to be gibberish to my ears. And I am glad that I attended, for the experience was surreal and her words poignant and powerful.
She's small and seems rather frail, but is able to galvanise the huge crowd that stood up to give her a standing ovation and echoed with claps every couple minutes. Many, from the Burmese committee were teary eyed and the emotion of the people was omnipresent. It was a larger than life moment, for me, and the magnitude of her words was not lost in translation, at least for now as she was speaking in English!
Suu Kyi accepted a copy of the citation of her honorary degree awarded to her 15 years ago and thanked the university for supporting the democratic movement for Burma. "It was one of the very first universities to recognize our efforts at democracy. The message that I sent to this university, to use your liberty to promote ours, resounded throughout the world."
"The support of our friends outside Burma has been very important to us," she said, adding that she hoped they would "stay with us for our transition to democracy."
Suu Kyi concluded her brief English remarks stating that, "The legislature in our country has begun to acquire democratic practices, democratic values and to mature from day to day...I hope very much that all of you will continue to help us in our endeavors and that friendship between our two countries will grow from strength to strength."
Luckily for me, since I was situated close to the door I was able to leave before her formal Burmese speech to the diaspora began. But, I left the arena with a renewed belief in humanity and the notion that we all belong to the same creed. Despite the disparities and differences we yearn for the same basic rights and liberties and share something irreducible.