This is my first post inspired by the prompts for Post a Week Challenge. The question: Who is your greatest hero of all time?
Aung San Suu Kyi is my hero because she is the epitome of enlightenment. She is what we should all strive to be in our own way. The light in the darkness.
I’ve known my hero is Aung San Suu Kyi, since about 1998. I had heard of a movie depicting the 1988 democracy uprising in Burma: Beyond Rangoon. This was my introduction to the inspirational Aung San Suu Kyi. After watching this movie, I became obsessed, learning everything I could about her, and basing a paper on her at university. (A new movie is currently in production that focuses more on the life of Aung San Suu Kyi herself. Click here for more information).
For those of you who don’t know, Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader for the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar (Burma), and was a political prisoner for 15 of 21 years. She won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a repressive military regime. She was released in November of 2010.
The pro-democracy uprising in 1988 was started by students in Rangoon on August 8, 1988, but quickly spread to include people from all walks of life, including monks, children, housewives, doctors and lawyers. They were protesting a superstitious one-party militaristic government that had driven their resource rich country into poverty.
The uprising ended after a bloody military crackdown by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, otherwise known as SLORC. Thousands of people were slaughtered by the government during this uprising, but authorities in Burma claim the body count is only in the hundreds.
In 1990, a multi-party general election was held. The National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by none other than Aung San Suu Kyi herself, won the election in a landslide victory (over 80% of seats). The government refused to recognize the results and arrested the elected NLD leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi included.
The words “quiet strength” come immediately to mind, when thinking about Aung San Suu Kyi. Many words follow. She is brave and courageous. A peaceful protester. A rightful leader. There is an aura about her that you don’t want to mess with. She is unshakable. Persistent. Aung San Suu Kyi seems to have an unstoppable sense of self. She is sure of who she is and what she wants. She is confident yet humble. A selfless fighter. Principled. Admirable. Noble. Can you tell I’m obsessed yet?
Despite the fact that her own father, independence hero Aung San, was assassinated in 1947 when she was only 2 years old, she was inspired by the non-violent approach of Mohandas Gandhi.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s story of non-violent protest has done more to raise awareness about the plight of the Burmese than anything else. She is admired the world over, from musicians Bono and Damien Rice, to Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1984, who said “In physical stature she is petite and elegant, but in moral stature she is a giant. Big men are scared of her. Armed to the teeth and they still run scared.”
Francis Sejersted, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, said “With her courage and her high ideals, Aung San Suu Kyi brings out something of the best in us. We feel we need precisely her sort of person in order to retain our faith in the future.” And this is why Aung San Suu Kyi is so important. It’s not only what she says and does, it’s how she inspires the rest of us to live better lives. How she mobilizes a movement. It’s what she symbolizes. This is power. And that is why any ill-treatment of her feels like a violation of what we value the most.
An offense against one is an offense against us all. This is what’s behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and this is why Aung San Suu Kyi is the perfect symbol for upholding these rights. There is no better person to invoke our feelings of solidarity as human beings. There are many examples of heroes, many we never hear about. But for me, Aung San Suu Kyi represents the ideal of meeting our human potential. She represents hope. Something I seem to talk a lot about on this blog.
In a world that has been darkened by countless violations of human rights, all in the name of God, or freedom, or just plain greed, she is the star that shines brightest in the darkest of nights. She is the light we leave on while we’re waiting to come home.
“We must always have hope. There is a difference between having hope and dreaming. It is not wrong to have hope but you have to work towards achieving that hope. Just sitting down and dreaming will not do. Have one vision and struggle to achieve it.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
- AUDIO: Michelle Yeoh on playing Suu Kyi (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Cool Hero of the Day: Aung San Suu Kyi (coolrevolution.net)
- The Lady: New film dramatizes life of Burma’s Daw Suu (coolrevolution.net)