Back in November of 2011 I wrote an essay on this blog about a woman who was a great inspiration for me: Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. At that time she had been released from house arrest and after years of confinement, she was diving back into the democracy movement in her native Burma (Myanmar.) I commented on the astounding fact that rather than “getting away”, or “recharging her batteries” after her house arrest, she immediately and inspirationally applied the characteristics of “Resiliency & Perseverance” into the changing political drama of her country.
Earlier this week, the people of her embattled country spoke in the first free election in decades and not only elected Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to a congressional seat in Parliament, but voted her party (the NLD) in a sweeping victory into 43 of the 44 parliamentary seats contested in this election.
The AP wrote earlier this week:
Aung San Suu Kyi, 66, was elected to parliament Sunday in a historic victory buffeted by the jubilant cheers of supporters who hope her triumph will mark a major turning point in a nation still emerging from a ruthless era of military rule.
If confirmed, the election win will also mark an astonishing reversal of fortune for a woman who became one of the world’s most prominent prisoners of conscience. When she was finally released in late 2010, just after a vote her party boycotted that was deemed neither free nor fair, few could have imagined she would make the leap from democracy advocate to elected official in less than 17 months, opening the way for a potential presidential run in 2015.
But Myanmar has changed dramatically over that time. The junta finally ceded power last year, and although many of its leaders merely swapped their military uniforms for civilian suits, they went on to stun even their staunchest critics by releasing political prisoners, signing cease-fires with rebels, relaxing press censorship and opening a direct dialogue with Suu Kyi — whom they tried to silence for decades.
I share this amazing turn of world events for two simple reasons. First, over the past few years I have been inspired by this courageous woman’s story and continue to be amazed and energized by the impact of her non-violent campaign to dramatically change the landscape of Burma. At times we look across history and find inspiration from individuals or situations from the chapters of history books. What we all need to recognize and celebrate is that among our midst, in the present glance of history, we have a unique and inspiring leader in the form of a 66 year old woman from Burma.
Secondly, I share this story as a lesson in hope & optimism. Often I am utterly depressed by the headlines both domestic and abroad. Whether it has to do with the shootings in religious schools in Oakland California or Toulouse France, or the uncertain global credit markets, or possibly the debates on health care being held at our Supreme Court, or the unthinkable shooting in Sanford Florida; the headlines can often lead one into a state of cynicism and depression. This story from Burma needs to be a guiding light to all of us. Against astounding odds, with a military government working hard to silence Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi with decades of house arrest and to eliminate her nascent NLD party, there actually WAS a fair election last week across Burma, the voice of the people WAS heard in the election results, the military junta IS attempting steps of reform to bring progressive change to Burma. All this is true! No I am not naïve to think that there won’t be setbacks in Burma’s road to their future but on this day, I am inspired by what actually HAS occurred and excited by the prospect of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi having the chance to run for President in the next elections in 2015!