Aung San Suu Kyi spoke to a university in Kentucky on Monday, saying she worries that Americans take for granted the freedoms her countrymen have struggled to achieve and which are still not guaranteed.
|Aung San Suu Kyi answers questions at the University of Louisville. Photo: University Center for Asian Democracy|
US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell accompanied Suu Kyi, who said everyone should watch developments in Burma so they can distinguish between “genuine progress and what is just progress on the surface,” according to a report by The Associated Press.
“This is a lot more difficult than finding out who are the goodies and who are the baddies, as happened in the past,” she said. “Life is not as simple as all that. There are many subtle shades of gray.”
During a question-and-answer session, Suu Kyi was asked what Americans could learn from her country's struggle toward democracy.
“We're not as different from you as you think we are,” she replied, adding that people around the world share the same aspirations for basic freedoms.
“This is what worries me sometimes about friends in the West, that they take many of their rights for granted,” she said. “And I think sometimes they abuse them because they take them so much for granted. So what you should learn from us is how valuable your democratic rights are.”
Asked about her philosophy of nonviolent protest, she said the best part about nonviolence is you don't waste time thinking of violent ways to get what you want.
“It frees up a lot of your time and it also frees up a lot of your heart,” she said.
She said she never hated the military regime, adding “that helped me in trying to understand them, in trying to reach out to them.”
“You must be able to put yourself in the place of your adversaries,” she said. “What do you want done to you? What should they want done to themselves? Nonviolence is a good way of making yourself a better person.”
Sen. McConnell lauded Suu Kyi for her “quiet resolve, her understated, luminous heroism” while following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi.
Mahn Saing, a former doctor in Burma, who is a restaurant owner in Louisville, told local media Suu Kyi is “the mother of Burma.”
“She speaks from the heart and it is very encouraging for the Burmese community to see her optimistic about the future for Burma, since we've been in the dark for so long,” he said. “It's just like lifting a veil.”