Aung San Suu Kyi

“You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” —Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi (1945—) is the daughter of Myanmar’s independence hero General Aung San. After 15 years of house arrest by the military that tried to thwart her work for Democracy in her country, she became the state counsellor of Myanmar and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Her father, General Aung San, was a national hero. He was the man who secured Burma’s independence from British Colonial rule, but he was assassinated when Ms. Suu Kyi was only two years old. She went on to study at Oxford University, where she met her husband and started her family. Eventually, she returned to Burma to take care of her ailing mother. The country was in turmoil because the army was running the government and not allowing the people to have a fair election. Ms. Suu Kyi led the people’s revolt with a series of peaceful protests. Although she and her party won the election, she was disqualified by a new law that stated no person with children with foreign passports could hold presidential office and she was placed under house arrest for fifteen years. She was not allowed to see her family—her two sons and her British husband, who died during this period. She was finally released from house arrest in November 2010. Since then she has been the State Counsellor (and close advisor to the elected president) of Myanmar and a symbol of hope, loyalty, and tenacity for the people of her country.

I can’t pretend to know much about Myanmar, let alone it’s complicated politics, but I have been inspired by what I’ve read and heard about this strong lady. I do want to share a story about her that resonates with me deeply. I was listening to this episode of Desert Island Discs, a BBC broadcast in which the guest tells personal stories between favorite choice of music. In this interview, Ms. Suu Kyi explains that even though she has no real memories of her father (he was killed when she was just two) he continues to be a strong motivator for her cause and the choices she’s made to honor his legacy. She says: “My father is my first love and my best love. I loved listening to stories about my father. And my mother of course concentrated on the fact that he was very honest and brave and loved his family and country very much…I think I can say that my father was my first love because I was always told that he loved me best, so this gave me tremendous confidence in life that I was his best loved.”

I was very moved to hear her say this as my own kids have lost their dad at a young age. Justine often romanticizes her father, as I suppose she should, asking to hear stories about how he showed love to her—though she can’t remember it herself. When I heard this interview, I couldn’t help but think of how important a father’s love is…and believing in it. This woman went on to fight for her father’s legacy even though it separated her from her own family for nearly two decades. I’ve been researching a lot of important famous women, and one thing is becoming clear: a father’s support is profound in their confidence. If they were treated as special/equal by their dads, they had an elevated springboard from which to do great things. Even if the father isn’t around, children can be reminded of his personal love for them. It seems profound to me. In the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, that love compels her to lead a nation, regardless of personal cost.

In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth, women are not merely tolerated but valued.”—Aung San Suu Ki

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