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Pelosi Remarks at Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony Honoring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi


Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her unwavering commitment to peace, non-violence, and democracy in Burma. Below are the Leader's remarks:

"It is a historic opportunity to be here today with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as she is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow. I join my colleagues, including the leader of this effort in the House -- Congressman Crowley -- in thanking Aung San Suu Kyi for her unwavering commitment to peace, non-violence, and democracy in Burma. I associate myself with his remarks in praise of our former colleague, Chairman Tom Lantos and his family's efforts on behalf of this occasion today. It is also appropriate to honor also, as we Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the many Burmese democracy supporters, many from California -- Senator Feinstein -- who are with us here today.

"We take this occasion to remember those who have suffered so much including the Burmese students, National League of Democracy party members, and other supporters who fought for democracy in 1988; members of the Burmese parliament-in-exile who have worked tirelessly from abroad; the Buddhist monks who courageously rose up in the Saffron Revolution in 2007, and the internally displaced and ethnic minorities who have endured so much poverty and conflict.

"Today, as we bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, we honor them all with this ceremony in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. It does not seem so long ago, and it wasn't, that women leaders and Members of Congress gathered to honor Aung San Suu Kyi on her 50th birthday. She could not be with us that day, but Secretary Albright was, the Secretary of State, and she is with us today and we are so honored. We all agreed that day as we sang happy birthday so loudly that we thought [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] could hear us and it was important that you know how well we wished you, but we also wanted the rulers in Burma to know how strongly we felt about you as well as how hard we were willing to fight for you.

"Mr. Speaker, I know that I can say I speak for all here today when I say that our hearts are full of joy, full of joy, to celebrate Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership in her presence. It is indeed an honor to be in her presence. Her presence here today is remarkable. When we passed Gold Medal legislation in 2008, as was said, it was thought maybe it would be given in abstentia, but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi knew better, she knew that if we waited a bit we could celebrate in this way. It is a symbol of progress in Burma; it is a sign of the bond between her and the United States.

"More than 15 years ago, she said to the world, "please use your liberty to promote ours.' With sanctions and boycotts, with rallies and legislation, and with direct dialogue and engagement, we did. The Obama Administration and Secretary Clinton are to be commended for their policy of engagement that has produced real progress on the long road towards democracy. What an honor for us that the Secretary is here, what a great honor it is for us that Mrs. Bush is here to bring the greetings of President Bush.

"The United States has stood and stands with the freedom-seeking people of Burma in their just cause. I'm proud to say that Northern California is home to the largest Burmese population in the nation. The New Yorkers think they may be -- we're not competitive around here. San Francisco has been a leader in promoting democracy for Burma and for supporting Aung San Suu Kyi. Buddhism -- and its non-violent tradition - has been a source of strength for that democracy movement in Burma. Though Aung San Suu Kyi has seen her supporters beaten, tortured, and killed, she has never responded with hatred and violence. She has asked only for peaceful dialogue and progress towards democracy.

"She has always believed that the need for democracy for all the people of Burma was more important than her personal needs. Indeed, she made great personal sacrifices in terms of her own family as Senator Feinstein pointed out. One admirer described her as a seeker -- a soul pilgrim -- one who makes her life a vehicle for an awakening to deeper and greater truths.

"Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi walks in the footsteps of her beloved father, Aung San, and the giants of history. For her personal sacrifice, for her inner strength, for her love of Burma and its people, and for being an example of strength and courage to the world, today we are proud to honor her with the Congressional Gold Medal -- the highest honor Congress can bestow. Thank you."

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