News & Updates
October 6, 2011
When awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was called “One of the most extraordinary examples of civil courage in Asia in recent decades.” She has said that one of her inspirations was South Africa’s successful struggle to end apartheid led by peacemakers like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and others who never stopped working to make South Africans free from oppression.
At the beginning of this week, on Monday, October 3, 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s (Myanmar’s) pro-democracy leader, expressed worry about the hope of reaching unity and democracy in her country. She explained that the challenge remains to bring Myanmar’s many diverse ethnic groups together. Like so many other leaders in the non-violent civil disobedience tradition, Suu Kyi has sacrificed much in the cause of bringing Myanmar out of its 20-year isolation into the bright dawn of democracy. After 15 years of detention, she was finally released in late 2010. She also suffered the cruel punishment of not being able to see her beloved husband one last time before he died as the government denied his request to travel from England to Burma in the last few months of his life.
Suu Kyi’s story is one of personal activism in the present-day that is a model for people who value the ultimate goal of worldwide peace, beginning with what they can do within their own cultures to instill the tradition of non-violence. It is not surprising that this daughter of Aung San, Commander of the Burma Independence Army until 1947, would be focused on creating and supporting a democracy in her homeland. Her father was assassinated in 1947 when Suu Kyi was just two years old, and soon after, her mother, Daw Khin Kyi, became active in politics, resulting in her appointment as Burma’s ambassador to India in 1960. It was there that Suu Kyi began a stellar academic career that took her to Oxford University in England for an undergraduate degree and then on to Kyoto University as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies. During this time she published significant work in academic literature, met and married her husband, Professor Michael Aris, and started a family with the birth of her two sons.
In 1988 Suu Kyi returned to Rangoon from her home in England to care for her mother who had been stricken by a stroke. While there, she observed the unrest around her and began her public life, making speeches protesting the government’s ban on more than four people gathering for a meeting as well as making arrests without trials. By September 1988 when the National League for Democracy was established, Suu Kyi found herself serving as General-Secretary, with a national platform from which she could support non-violent disobedience as the way toward democracy in Burma. In December of that same year, her beloved mother, Daw Khin Kyi died, and Suu Kyi committed her life to the service of Burma, following in the footsteps of both her mother and father.
Aung San Suu Kyi could easily have stayed in England, as a successful academic contributing important work about the political and economic cultures of Asia, but she chose the more difficult path of personal activism. Instead of staying safely out of harm’s way in England with her husband and children, she took a step requiring a very special kind of courage—to put the good of the many above her own needs, mirroring the commitment her parents demonstrated toward freedom for all within Burma.
When she spoke this week to students in Johannesburg, she asked that the World watch events in Burma closely, and speak out as part of the global community against the atrocities reported to be happening at the hands of the army right now. Aung San Suu Kyi assures us that “We are determined to make a success of our struggle for democracy. We are not just going to sit. We are going to move to get to where we want to go.” Given the great courage Suu Kyi has shown over more than two decades since she returned to Burma to care for her mother, it is safe to say that she is a leader with unwavering purpose. She counts among her friends other great peacemakers like Archbishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and Gro Harlem Brundtland. Aung San Suu Kyi, like her friends, is an inspirational light shining on the path of peace for us all to take together into the future.
October 6, 2011
Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.
To be a leader—to have leadership qualities—is a characteristic that people can generally recognize when they see it. When you think of a leader, what is the first quality that comes to mind…that she/he is powerful? Inspirational? A visionary for change? Courageous? Intelligent? Authentic? Has integrity? Competent? Lives by high moral standards? Ethical? Tolerant? Compassionate? The transformational leaders in the 21st Century will be focused on global peace, and to attain that golden goal, leaders will not be interested in having power over others. Instead, leaders will seek to inspire the cultures of the globe by practicing Ethical Leadership, making tolerance and respect among all societies the top priority. These leaders will help people learn to find the power within themselves so they will no longer fear their neighbors and instead build bridges of cooperation and trust. When a total commitment is made to tolerance and respect within each culture as well as among all societies, world peace will at last be achieved. The transformational leaders who emerge, whether within one of the hundreds of cultures around the world, or upon the world stage, will model the ethics, or standards, shared by all humankind–the first being to live in peace made possible through tolerance and respect for others. Great leaders will Walk the Walk.
The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation believes that among young people around the world today, there are many men and women for whom the vision of world peace is unquestioned as the only path forward. Dr. Tutu has said that “The young people of today are the best hope we have for transforming cultures of war and violence into cultures of peace and prosperity. By providing people, ages 15-25, with interactive and stimulating opportunities to learn about and embrace moral and ethical practices, they are more likely to engage in and foster the principles of non-violence, equality, compassion and integrity in their societies.” These leaders will reflect a kind of spiritual pragmatism where many spiritual concepts come together with the shared values of compassion, tolerance, respect, and love for all living things—and the belief in and support for global Peace. Together we can create a world that, while gloriously diverse, maintains a standard of living for all where no person will want for food, shelter, education, and dreams of a future that will be realized.
The new leaders coming of age now have among their role models Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, and His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, three of the most influential peacemakers the world has ever known. The great legacy of these extraordinary people will be the Ethical Leadership of each, which results in the end of war and violence, and transforms life on Earth as humanity reaches the Golden Goal of Global Peace.