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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, later today Congress will award the Congressional Gold Medal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a remarkably courageous woman whose cause I have taken a particular interest in over the years.
Suu Kyi's story is so powerful it is almost hard to believe it is all true.
Her father Aung San, the architect of Burmese independence, was assassinated when she was a toddler. She lived in India for a time, worked at the U.N. here in the United States, and eventually married and settled into a happy and comfortable life with her professor husband and two boys in Oxford, England.
That quiet, suburban life changed forever one night in the spring of 1988. She got a phone call that her mother had fallen ill back in Burma. She left to take care of her the following day and arrived to find a revolution already underway.
As her father's daughter, Suu Kyi was regarded as a natural fit to fill the role.
Years earlier, Suu Kyi had a premonition that her people might need her one day, so much so that when her husband proposed marriage, she agreed, but on the one condition that if her people ever needed her, she could go. He agreed without hesitation. More than two decades later, he made good on his pledge.
With Suu Kyi under house arrest in Burma, her husband fell ill with cancer back in England. She knew she would be allowed to leave, but she also knew she wouldn't be allowed to return to Burma once she did. So with her husband's support, Suu Kyi made the difficult decision to stay. For nearly two decades--two decades--she remained under house arrest in her mother's old home on University Avenue on the shores of Inya Lake.
Over the years, I have followed Suu Kyi closely and I have done what I could to advance her cause. Along with Senator Feinstein, I have worked to get the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act enacted every year since 2003 as a way of pressuring the regime to reform itself.
My colleague Senator McCain has been active on this issue and has had the opportunity to visit with her several times.
If not for the quiet determination and simple confidence of this remarkable women, democratic reforms might have seemed a lost cause under the Burmese junta. But in November 2010, we were all encouraged when Suu Kyi was finally released from house arrest. And since then we have seen other hopeful signs.
I was allowed the privilege of actually traveling to Burma earlier this year to meet with Suu Kyi and discuss some of the reforms we have seen. On April 1, Suu Kyi won a seat in the Burmese Parliament. We cannot be sure that the progress we have seen in Burma will last, but we are cautiously optimistic.
It is a great privilege to be able to honor this woman who has done so much for the Burmese people and for the cause of democratic reform and human rights around the world. I am also honored that Suu Kyi has graciously agreed to speak about her incredible journey and the cause of democratic reform and human rights at the University of Louisville next Monday. I know the students and the larger community there are all looking forward to her visit.
But for now, this is a truly special day here at the Capitol. It has been a long time coming. We are honored to have this hero with us today and delighted to award her our Nation's highest civilian honor.
Madam President, I yield the floor.
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