Aung San Suu Kyi delivered what Nobel Prize officials are calling one of the most historic addresses in the prestigious history of the awards in Oslo on Saturday.
Her personal Nobel Peace Prize speech – delayed for 21 years because she was under house arrest when it was awarded – included touching moments from her early life in England, historic moments of glory and tragedy in Burma and an eloquent discourse on the nature of peace
Recalling hearing the first news of the award on the radio, she said, “It did not seem quite real because in a sense I did not feel myself to be quite real at that time.” She said the prize took her out of a feeling of imprisonment and served “to draw me once again into the world of other human beings.”
In awarding the prize, she said the Nobel committee “was recognizing that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognizing the oneness of humanity…The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.”
She said “fires and strife” are raging around the world, threatening humanity. She quoted from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, “the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspirations of the common people.”
Democracy in Burma is showing signs of “bearing fruit,” she said.
“If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future but because I do not want to encourage blind faith,” she said. “Without faith in the future, without the conviction that democratic values and fundamental human rights are not only necessary but possible for our society, our movement could not have been sustained throughout the destroying years.
“Some of our warriors fell at their post, some deserted us, but a dedicated core remained strong and committed. At times when I think of the years that have passed, I am amazed that so many remained staunch under the most trying circumstances.” She made a plea for the world to remember the men and women in Burma’s prisons who are there because of their “conscience” and their efforts to work for democracy.
“Please remember the often repeated truth that one prisoner of conscience is one too many,” she said. Taking advantage of being on a world stage during a moment that has captured the media’s attention, she made a plea for further political progress on Burma’s road to national reconciliation.
“The reform measures that were put into motion by President U Thein Sein’s government can be sustained only with the intelligent cooperation of all internal forces: the military, our ethnic nationalities, political parties, the media, civil society organizations, the business community and, most important of all, the general public,” said Suu Kyi. “We can say that reform is effective only if the lives of the people are improved and in this regard, the international community has a vital role to play.”
Touching on the Buddhist concept of peace and kindness, or compassion, she said “perfect peace is not of this earth, [but] common endeavours to gain peace will unite individuals and nations in trust and friendship and help to make our human community safer and kinder.”
“Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace,” she said. “Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace.”
Recalling her long personal struggle in Burma and that of her colleagues and fellow citizens, she said, “History had given us the opportunity to give of our best for a cause in which we believed.”
Following the speech, Suu Kyi will attend an open-air gathering of people who want to share in the historic moment of her receiving the award.
Suu Kyi received the actual peace prize in 1991 and used its cash reward to create scholarship programs for Burmese youth, said The Associated Press. At the time, she was under house arrest in Burma, and her two teenage sons accepted the prize in a ceremony in Oslo.
She arrived in the Norwegian capital on Friday, after falling ill in Geneva during a press conference on Thursday. She has a history of dizziness and airsickness, and her personal physician in Rangoon said he was worried about her health because she was frail and the trip to five European cities would be demanding.
At a Friday press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Suu Kyi showed her mettle in pointed comments about the dangers posed by Burma’s military-dominated quasi-elected Parliament.
She said she would encourage only “democratic-friendly, human-rights friendly” and “transparent” investments given to the private sector, not to the government, which is dominated by the army.
“Burma has been a command economy for too long, and we did not prosper,” she said. “We are not at the end of the road, by no means, we are just starting out.”
“I fight against what is dangerous for the democratic process, and the military having the kind of powers that they shouldn’t have certainly endangers the democratic process,” she said.
Reporters asked Suu Kyi, now a Member of Parliament in Burma, if she felt muzzled in her new role as a legislator.
“I’ve never felt muzzled. I never hesitated to say what I thought I should say, at any time, even when I was under house arrest. I’m doing the same thing now. I only say what I can take responsibility for.”
She said that she was coming back to Europe after so long “with different eyes” on “a journey of discovery and rediscovery.”
She said she has been preparing her Nobel lecture for about one week, and, “What I am now is reflected in that lecture.”
She still appeared tired and jet-lagged during a Friday dinner with Norway's King Harald and Queen Sonja.
Speaking with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from Oslo, Suu Kyi said she had been reflecting on the meaning of peace, in preparation for writing her acceptance speech.
“I am trying to find the answers to these questions myself. I am exploring them and I will be exploring the answers in my lecture," she said.
“My attitude to peace is rather based on the Burmese definition of peace -- it really means removing all the negative factors that destroy peace in this world. So peace does not mean just putting an end to violence or to war, but to all other factors that threaten peace, such as discrimination, such as inequality, poverty."
“[Her visit] means a lot to the Norwegian people because we admire her so much and we have longed to see her coming here and give her Nobel speech,” the executive director of the Nobel center, Bente Erichsen, told AP.
Suu Kyi is scheduled to spend three days in Oslo and the Norwegian city of Bergen, then travel to the Irish capital, Dublin, on Monday to receive Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award to be presented by U2 lead singer Bono during a massive concern dubbed “Electric Burma.” From there she returns to Oxford to receive an honorary degree and after that she will spend four days in France.
Bono was scheduled to join her at an Oslo press conference on Monday and then fly with her to Dublin.