Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi is in the United States on a 17-day visit. She spoke Saturday at a college in New York on the fifth day of her tour.
Burmese Americans waited in line for more than six hours to see their heroine - the woman they call Mommy Suu, greeting her with chants of “be healthy.”
Aung San Suu Kyi was released two years ago after serving nearly 19 years of her life under house arrest by Burma’s military government. The country is rich with ethnic diversity which has also been a source of violent conflict. But in New York, different ethnic groups handed her gifts. And, she offered advice.
“Don't focus on the conflict. Focus on the reconciliation,” she said.
It's a different concept in a country where transparency is foreign and compromise is new. Filmmaker Robert Lieberman can attest to that. He spent for years in Burma secretly shooting the documentary “They Call It Myanmar”, for which he also interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi.
“She's probably right now the only person who can hold this country together,” says Lieberman.
At another location, on campus at New York’s Queen College, Aung San Suu Kyi tailored her speech to students. She told them to appreciate their freedoms.
"I hope you will all understand what it is like to struggle for human rights and democracy and human rights in Burma. It is just the way you have heard about it. It may seem to you not quite real until you meet it face-to-face. And then you know what it's really like.”
Sapna Chhatpar Considine protested on Burma's behalf for years and was on site to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Considine said she discovered her passion for human rights as a college student.
“I think that type of message resonates on campuses all over the world and she knows that. She knows the power of the student groups. She's seen it in Burma. She's seen it throughout the world.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, now 67, will not be able to run for president when the next elections are held in Burma in three years because of restrictions in the country’s constitution. She says she wants the youth to direct the future of Burma, saying that they have the freedom to question their lawmakers and to demand change -- something she was punished for time and time again in her country.