WASHINGTON: US lawmakers presented Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi with Congress’ highest civilian honour in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, prompting Suu Kyi to declare it ‘one of the most moving days of my life’.
She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008 while under a 15-year house arrest for her peaceful struggle against military rule. Her long-awaited visit to America finally provided an opportunity for her to receive the honour in person in Congress’ most majestic setting, beneath the dome of the Capitol and ringed by marble statues of former presidents.
The 67-year-old Nobel laureate said it was worth the years of waiting, being honoured “in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land.”
Previous recipients of the medal include George Washington, Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II.
She then met privately at the White House with President Barak Obama, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. They appeared relaxed and were smiling as they talked in the Oval Office. Neither made formal comments to the photographers gathered to briefly witness the meeting. Obama ‘expressed his admiration for her courage, determination and personal sacrifice in championing democracy and human rights over the years’, according to a statement from the White House.
The White House said the president ‘reaffirmed the determination of the United States to support their sustained efforts to promote political and economic reforms and to ensure full protection of the fundamental rights of the Burmese people’.
At the medal ceremony, House and Senate leaders joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in paying tribute to Suu Kyi. Speaker after speaker at the medal ceremony marvelled that this was moment they thought they would never see: Suu Kyi before them, not only free but herself now a lawmaker. “It’s almost too delicious to believe, my friend,” said Clinton, “that you are in the Rotunda of our Capitol, the centrepiece of our democracy as an elected member of parliament.”
Lawmakers talked about years of working together across party lines on the behalf of Suu Kyi’s democracy movement.
Ex-junta inspired by West Wing, says Clinton
WASHINGTON: Myanmar’s former generals have looked to American television for tips on how to build a democracy. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew laughter on Wednesday in Washington as she recounted a conversation with Myanmar’s lower house speaker from her historic visit to the country last year. Clinton said: He said to me, ‘Help us learn how to be a democratic congress, a Parliament. He went on to tell me that they were trying to teach themselves by watching old segments of The West Wing.’ Clinton smiled: ‘I said, ‘I think we can do better than that Mr Speaker’.’ The drama about a fictional US president’s inner-circle stopped broadcasting in 2006, while Myanmar’s junta was still in power. Clinton spoke at an event honoring Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi. —