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Thoughts from Aung San Suu Kyi

Happiness takes on many forms. Political prisoners have known the most sublime moments of perfect communion with their highest ideals during periods when they were incarcerated in isolation, cut off from contact with all that was familiar and dear to them. From where do those resources spring, if not from an innate strength that transcends material bounds? My colleagues who spent years in the harsh conditions of Burmese prisons, and I myself, have had to draw on such inner resources on many occasions.

Nobody can take away from us the essential and ultimate freedom of choosing our priorities in life. We may not be able to control the external factors that affect our existence, but we can decide how we wish to conduct our inner lives. We may live in a society that does not grant freedom of expression, but we can decide how much value we wish to put on the duty to speak out for our rights. We may not be able to pursue our beliefs without bringing down on us the full vengeance of a cruel state mechanism, but we can decide how much we are prepared to sacrifice for our beliefs. Those of us who decided to work for democracy in Burma made our choice in the conviction that the danger of standing up for basic human rights in a repressive society was preferable to the safety of a quiescent life in servitude.

--Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace prize winner (1991) and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, in a speech delivered by her husband Michael Aris at American University on January 26, 1997.

(from: Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 14, 1997)


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