December 21, 2012 | Queens College
Voted into the Myanmar Parliament last spring, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is no ordinary lawmaker. A Nobel Peace Prize winner who spent 15 years under house arrest in Rangoon, unable to see her children or even visit her husband on his deathbed, she personified the struggle for democracy in an isolated nation ruled by a military dictatorship. So her appearance at a pair of back-to-back events at Queens College on September 22—part of her first trip to the United States in about four decades—drew capacity crowds.
Suu Kyi started the morning at LeFrak Concert Hall, where she was welcomed by QC President James Muyskens, Congressman Joseph Crowley ’85, and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Alumna Carole King serenaded her, leading the invitation-only audience in an impromptu version of “You’ve Got a Friend”; Anjelica Huston read a portion of Suu Kyi’s essay “Freedom from Fear” in her honor. Suu Kyi’s eloquence was also in evidence in her response to a student’s question about her rationale for becoming a legislator in the government that had persecuted her and so many others. “I don’t believe in professional dissidents,” she explained. “I think it’s just a phase, like adolescence.”
Next, Suu Kyi went over to Colden Auditorium to address members of the Burmese community in their native language. Some had driven hundreds of miles and waited outside overnight for the opportunity to hear her speak. She also had the chance to hear them. Before she walked on stage, a reporter for a Burmese-language newspaper led the attendees, some 2,000 strong, in a rapturous call-and-response of “Long live Mother Suu Kyi!”
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