Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi: BBC Reith Lectures

One of the most admirable political figures of our time, Aung San Suu Kyi, pro-democracy leader of Burma, has given two wonderful Reith Lectures on the BBC, one on "Liberty," another on "Dissent."  Both are available as podcasts for download.  Held under house arrest off-and-on for more than twenty years by the military junta that rules Burma, Suu Kyi was able to record the lectures and smuggle them to the UK for broadcast early this summer.  A telephone hook up also enabled her to field questions from an audience assembled in England. 

She speaks directly and eloquently about the meaning of freedom and the troubles that confront her quest to bring democracy to a land ruled by ruthless dictators.  Along the way she describes the circumstances of her imprisonment, sources of inspiration for resistance, what the term "activist" really means, the events of "Arab Spring," the barriers faced by members of her political party, and the promise of new communications media in worldwide struggles for liberation.  In one clear, no-nonsense passage, she puts her finger on the lure of "power" that entices people to abandon liberty and betray those who seek it. 

During the autumn of 1991 during a sabbatical in Norway, I went to the Oslo City city hall for the open-to-all ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi.  She was under house arrest at the time.  Her husband, Michael Aris, accepted the award and her son, Alexander Aris, delivered a  moving speech on her behalf. 

If you have a chance, by all means listen to her gentle but insistent message in the Reith Lectures.

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