— On the final leg of a whirlwind U.S. tour, Aung San Suu Kyi says democracy is an evolutionary process. The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010. She has since won a seat in her country's parliament. A pro-democracy icon, she now holds the key to opening her country to the outside world, together with Burmese President Thein Sein. The two had overlapping visits to the United States.
Aung San Suu Kyi spoke mostly in Burmese and immigrant Kyaw Dhu Ya came to hear her talk to several thousand people. He says Aung San Suu Kyi is the Burmese community's leader. He came to support her because she fought for democracy.
Her tour took the Burmese parliamentarian to Capitol Hill, where she was given the Congressional Gold Medal, awarded in 2008. It was one of many honors she received after her release from many years of house arrest. She met with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and paid visits to Burmese communities in Kentucky and Indiana, among other stops.
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.
The Los Angeles audience also drew Burmese and other immigrants, like Prem Guragain and his wife, Brinda.
“Because we respect Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She has done so much for peace and democracy," he said. "We're from Nepal, the land of Lord Buddha and land of Mount Everest, so we are here to support what she has been doing for humanity.”
One man in the audience has been following the career of the pro-democracy advocate for years. Documentary maker Howard Worth directed a film called “Douye”, which means “Our Cause” or “Our Rights.” It looked at how the work of Aung San Suu Kyi has inspired many around the world.
“She is a profound emotional center for so many people, people you wouldn't expect,” he said.
A handful of protesters drew attention to the Rohingya Muslim minority group in Burma, which international human rights groups say is subject to severe persecution. Koko Naing is a Rohingya immigrant who says Aung San Suu Kyi has not addressed his people's plight, including the relocation of thousands.
“It's ethnic cleansing," he said. "So I want Miss Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up and provide a long-term solution for the Rohingya minority of Burma.”
Aung San Suu Kyi was asked, if she were president of Burma today, how would she handle the refugee problem. The opposition leader said that is a hypothetical and not a practical question.