The World’s Only Imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate

Aung San Suu Kyi, prisoner of Burma, was born June 19, 1945.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 18, 2010

Statement by the President on the Birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi

I wish to convey my best wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate, on the occasion of her 65th birthday on June 19.  Her determination, courage, and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice.  I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and to allow them to build a more stable, prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its citizens.  Towards this end, I encourage all stakeholders in Burma to engage in genuine dialogue towards national reconciliation, a vital step to set Burma on a more positive course for the future.

Today, her 65h birthday, is also her 15th year under house arrest. Her two children will not be with her to celebrate. Aung San Suu Kiy has not seen her children for years, and in 1999, when her husband was dying, she was prevented from being at his side.

Aung San Suu Kyi won’t be going out to dinner in celebration. She won’t be going to a show. There will be no party. Likely she will receive a cake and perhaps some cards from her supporters, delivered by a family friend.  She lives in a dank, dark house with a crumbling roof, surrounded by soldiers, a prisoner of the ruling military junta.

What was her crime? She called for non-violent resistance against the military dictatorship that massacred thousands of protesting students. She founded a political party that won 82 per cent of the popular vote in the 1990 general election, and would have been appointed Prime Minister.

For those crimes the military junta nullified the election and placed Aung San Suu Kyi in jail, and then under house arrest, her status for all but five of the last twenty years.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a small, delicate, and beautiful woman with a soft but powerful voice. We can hear that voice from beyond the confines of her lonely prison. It has been called a fearless voice, a voice of hope, and it is a voice that cannot be silenced or suppressed, a voice that needs to be answered with millions of voices raised as one voice,  one mantra that must be recited over and over again around the world: FREE AUNG SAN SUU KYI.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi“Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavour, courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as ‘grace under pressure’ – grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure.

Within a system which denies the existence of basic human rights, fear tends to be the order of the day. Fear of imprisonment, fear of torture, fear of death, fear of losing friends, family, property or means of livelihood, fear of poverty, fear of isolation, fear of failure. A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man’s self-respect and inherent human dignity. It is not easy for a people conditioned by fear under the iron rule of the principle that might is right to free themselves from the enervating miasma of fear. Yet even under the most crushing state machinery courage rises up again and again, for fear is not the natural state of civilised man.

The wellspring of courage and endurance in the face of unbridled power is generally a firm belief in the sanctity of ethical principles combined with a historical sense that despite all setbacks the condition of man is set on an ultimate course for both spiritual and material advancement. It is his capacity for self-improvement and self-redemption which most distinguishes man from the mere brute. At the root of human responsibility is the concept of perfection, the urge to achieve it, the intelligence to find a path towards it, and the will to follow that path if not to the end at least the distance needed to rise above individual limitations and environmental impediments. It is man’s vision of a world fit for rational, civilised humanity which leads him to dare and to suffer to build societies free from want and fear. Concepts such as truth, justice and compassion cannot be dismissed as trite when these are often the only bulwarks which stand against ruthless power.”

From ‘Freedom from Fear’ in Freedom from Fear and other writings ed. Michael Aris (London: Viking, 1991)

I highly recommend this excellent interview in the Shambhala Sun in which she discusses at some length Buddhism and meditation: Conversations with Aung San Suu Kyi.

And, there are many ways in which you can stand with this remarkable woman. To learn about them, please visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Pages.

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