News / Europe

Oxford Honors Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, poses for the photographers following an award ceremony at the Oxford University, Oxford, England, June 20, 2012.
Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, poses for the photographers following an award ceremony at the Oxford University, Oxford, England, June 20, 2012.
VOA News
Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi received an honorary degree on Wednesday from Oxford, the prestigious British university where she studied before embarking on her long campaign to bring democracy to Burma.  It's a short but significant stop on Suu Kyi's two-week Europe tour.

Speaking in Oxford Wednesday, Suu Kyi said she had lived a happy life in the university town.

"During the most difficult years I was upheld [by] my memories of Oxford," said Suu Kyi.  "These were among the most important inner resources that helped me to cope with all the challenges I had to face."

  • Aung San Suu Kyi and British Prime Minister David Cameron walk in the Rose Garden at the Prime Minister's country residence Chequers, near Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, England, June 22, 2012.
  • Burma's opposition leader makes an address to a joint session of both Houses of Parliament, in Westminster Hall, in London, June 21, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall in the gardens of Clarence House, in London, 21 June 2012
  • Aung San Suu Kyi greets British Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street in London, June 21, 2012.
  • Burmese opposition leader leaves through The Great Gate after receiving her honorary degree at Oxford University, in Oxford southern England, June 20, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, center, meets with people at a reception in Oxford, England, June 19, 2012.
  • Burma's political leader is given a picture of her father for her birthday at The London School of Economics and Political Science in London, June, 19, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi accepts the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty (L) and singer Bono (R), Dublin, Ireland, June 18, 2012.
  • From left, Aung San Suu Kyi, Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Irish singer and activist Bono address the media after attending a conference of the Oslo Forum, Norway, June 18, 2012.
  • Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (L) meets Naw Star Ri during a meeting with the Burmese community in Bergen, Norway, June 17, 2012.
  • Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, left, welcomes Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Foreign Ministry for a meeting in Oslo, June 17, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi signs a book at the Nobel Institute after a meeting with the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo, June 16, 2012.
  • Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to a large audience outside Oslo's City Hall, Norway, June 16, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, holds her speech during the Peace Nobel Prize lecture at the city hall in Oslo, June 16, 2012. She formally accepts the prize that thrust her into the global limelight two decades ago.
  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is greeted by Norwegian King Harald and Norway's Queen Sonja (L-R) at the Royal Castle in Oslo, June 16, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi attends a news conference with Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in central Oslo, June 15, 2012.
  • Burma's pro-democracy leader signs autographs outside the Swiss Parliament in Bern, Switzerland, June 14, 2012.
  • Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech during the last day of the 101st session of the International Labor Conference of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 2012.

Suu Kyi was a student at Oxford in the 1960s and returned with her family to live in the town during the 1980s.

She said Wednesday it had been a good life.

"The memories were in fact very simple ones - summer days like these, when I went on the Cherwell with friends, in a punt, or sat reading on the lawn at St Hugh's, or in the library not looking at a book but out of the windows," Suu Kyi recalled.

Oxford is a picturesque town in the south of England, which has changed relatively little since Suu Kyi left Britain in 1988.

A winding river runs through the old town, scattered with historic colleges, bicycles, and swarms of young students.

But for Suu Kyi, much has changed since she lived on a residential street with her family.  

Her children have grown and her husband, Tibetan scholar Michael Aris, passed away. In her country Burma, decades of military rule have come to an end.

Andrew Dilnot is principal at St Hugh's College where Suu Kyi was a student. He says her long campaign for democracy in Burma has been an inspiration for a new generation of students.

"She's been able to stand for values that naturally appeal to young people," said Dilnot.  "So the importance of freedom, the importance of democracy, the importance of peaceful approaches to the resolution of conflict."

On the streets of Oxford students told said that they felt proud of their university's link to Suu Kyi.

"She's been such a powerful figure for women and for young girls as well as politically fighting for freedom essentially. So I think that she encompasses so much that is important," said one student.

Suu Kyi is making a tour of Europe. She has already visited Switzerland, Norway, and Ireland. She will also stop in France before returning to Burma.

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