Life as message
Burmese (Myanmar) opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally delivered Saturday her Nobel Peace Prize address—more than 20 years “late.” Back when it was awarded in 1991 by the Nobel committee “for her nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights,” Suu Kyi was at the height of global prominence: She had led the National League for Democracy in dealing Burma’s military junta a crushing electoral defeat. But the junta refused to recognize her victory and placed her under house arrest. As a result she wasn’t able to go to Oslo to receive the prize herself: her husband, Michael Aris (a professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at Oxford) and her two children, Alexander and Kim (who grew up largely without her) received for her the award.
She could have left Burma to join them in Europe and perhaps deliver her Nobel address. But she didn’t because she would have surely been barred from going back to Burma. As a result, she had to deprive herself of tending to her family and generally enjoying the peace of exile. In 1999, Aris died of prostate cancer without her, underscoring the private pain that comes with public commitment.
So when she finally delivered her Nobel address, Thorbjorn Jagland, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, could only praise and thank her “for your fearlessness, your tenacity and your strength.” He said, “Your life is a message to all of us.”
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