News / Asia

Aung San Suu Kyi Receives US Congressional Gold Medal

Cindy Saine
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.

-The United States' highest civilian award
-Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the medal in 2008, while under house arrest in Burma, for her leadership and commitment to human rights
-The first Congressional Gold Medal recipient was George Washington, the first U.S. president, in 1776
-Other recent recipients include India's Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Reverend Martin Luther King
Many of the lawmakers who spoke mentioned the great personal sacrifices Aung San Suu Kyi made for the cause she believed in.  Burma's military junta separated her from her family and she was not even permited to visit her husband when he was dying of cancer.

But Wednesday was more a day of joy, and former First Lady Laura Bush celebrated the triumph of the democratic reforms Burma has launched over the past two years.

"The transition in Burma, like past events in South Africa or Eastern Europe, shows that history has a hopeful direction.  It is capable of miracles.  There is a part of every soul that longs for freedom and any government built on opression is built on sand," said Laura Bush.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized that Suu Kyi was not content just to remain a symbol of democracy, an icon, but is continuing the fight as a member of parliament in Burma.

"It is almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you are here in the Rotunda of our great Capitol, the centerpiece of our democracy, as an elected member of your parliament," said Clinton.

After all the praise heaped upon her, Suu Kyi was soft-spoken in her response.

"This is one of the most moving days of my life, to be here in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land.  Yet I do not feel myself to be a stranger, for I see many familiar faces, and faces that are new to me but known through what they have done for my country and for our cause," said Aung San Suu Kyi.

 
Aung San Suu Kyi's tour of the United StatesAung San Suu Kyi's tour of the United States
x
Aung San Suu Kyi's tour of the United States
Aung San Suu Kyi's tour of the United States

During her visit to the United States, Suu Kyi has said she supports the easing of the remaining U.S. sanctions against Burma. 

On Wednesday, while she was the Capitol, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that sanctions against Burmese President Thein Sein and the speaker of the lower house of parliamentart Thura Shwe Mann have been lifted.

  • Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California, October 2, 2012.
  • Burmese opposition leader speaks at the University of San Francisco after receiving an honorary doctorate degree, San Francisco, California, September 29, 2012.
  • Nobel laureate holds the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the Human Rights Foundation's first San Francisco Freedom Forum in San Francisco, California, September 28, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi addresses a gathering at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 27, 2012.
  • Burmese democracy leader receives a traditional Chin shawl before speaking in Fort Wayne, Indiana, September 25, 2012.
  • An infant in the audience wears the flag of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy as the Burmese pro-democracy leader speaks in Fort Wayne, Indiana, September 25, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi receives an award from U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (L) at Queens College in New York, September 22, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of Burma's National League for Democracy, receives a Global Citizen Award from IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde during third annual Global Citizen Awards Dinner in New York, September 21, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi signs the guest book of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations in New York, September 21, 2012.
  • Burma's opposition leader receives the National Endowment for Democracy award from Carl Gershman (L), President of the National Endowment for Democracy, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a ceremony in Washington, September 20, 2012.
  • Burma's recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy award (L-R) Aung San Suu Kyi, Khun Htun Oo, Aung Din, Dr Cynthia Maung and Kyaw Thu, during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 20, 2012.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Aung San Suu Kyi in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., September 19, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi holds her Congressional Gold Medal after it was presented to her by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (2nd L), at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 19, 2012.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi meets with Senators (L-R) John Kerry (D-MA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Harry Reid (D-NV), Jim Webb (D-VA), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., September 19, 2012.
  • Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Voice of America, September 18, 2012 (Neeta Maskey Torrini/VOA)
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is presented with the Global Vision Award by Asia Society trustee Tom Freston at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., September 18, 2012.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) introduces Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to speak at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., September 18, 2012.

Related Video courtesy - VOA Carolyn Presutti

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jason from: Cambodia
September 20, 2012 10:44 AM
After reforming politics, Burmese people will be closer and closer to knowing democracy. Congratulation Suu Kyi

by: hane from: dakar
September 20, 2012 4:54 AM
I love her courage, good luck

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More