Throughout our nation’s distinguished history, many accomplished dignitaries have honored us with their presence in the hallowed halls of Congress. They’ve offered us words of wisdom in speeches before Joint Sessions and they’ve briefed American leaders on challenges facing their own countries. But from time to time, we have the chance to welcome great world leaders as their travels bring them to Washington, D.C.
Today, the United States Congress presented Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi with her 2008 Congressional Gold Medal. The highest honor given by Congress, Suu Kyi’s Congressional Gold Medal was awarded to her during one of her many stints of house arrest at the hands of the Burmese military. I was honored recently to spend time with Suu Kyi in Burma. She shared with me stories of her captivity. She has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest. She has suffered through multiple show trials. She spent years separated from her family. But she never gave up her fight for freedom.
Aung San Suu Kyi possesses many great awards and honoraria. She’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a former member of Nelson Mandela’s The Elders, and a graduate of Oxford. But perhaps the greatest piece of her legacy is a simple word used to describe her: fighter. She’s dedicated her life to leading the fight for democracy and human rights.
Today, as she finally received her Congressional Gold Medal, joining the ranks of Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, Elie Wiesel, and other great defenders of liberty, we pause to honor her dedication to the innate desire in all of us for freedom. We pause to honor her faithful espousal of human rights. And we pause especially to honor her sheer determination. Her great perseverance and fidelity to bringing her country through to the other side of oppression is a grand inspiration to us all. The world needs more leaders, more women, like Aung San Suu Kyi who are committed to achieving a better world for all of us.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican member of Congress from Tennessee, serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.