Reasons why I am not an international diplomat (based on one lecture by an amazing woman):
- I am not willing to challenge other people on their beliefs
- I prefer comfort over striving to achieve the best for others
- I do not have the grace or wisdom to refuse to condemn those I see as at fault
- I sometimes make a situation out to be worse than it is
- I need A LOT of further education and/or experience
- I don’t have great posture
These are the top things I learned when attending a public lecture by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi MP of Burma. She was giving a lecture as part of her acceptance of an honorary Doctor of Laws at my old university. I’ll call her Daw Suu Kyi for short.
Burma is a South-East Asian country which was under British rule until its independence in 1948. In 1962, General Ne Win overthrew the Burmese government and imposed military rule.
Daw Suu Kyi was incredible, she is not only highly intelligent with a list of achievements and degrees that I could only dream of, but she has passion. You can read her full biography here but I’ll give you a brief run down.
Daw Suu Kyi was born in Burma in 1945. After spending many years studying overseas, she came back to Burma in 1988 and began to speak out against the military government who were violently suppressing the Burmese population who were protesting against the government, particularly the brutal rule of dictator General Ne Win.
She initiated a non-violent movement to achieve democracy and human rights however in 1989, the government placed her under house arrest – she spent 15 of the next 21 years in custody. In 1991, her efforts to bring democracy and reconciliation to Burma won her the Nobel Peace Prize.
In April 2012, Daw Suu Kyi was elected to parliament, becoming the Leader of the Opposition in the Lower House: she has announced that she will run for the Presidency in the 2015 elections.
As I would love to achieve at least half as much as Daw Suu Kyi, I found myself comparing my future self to the graceful and dignified woman on stage during her speech, hence the above points.
1. Challenging people on their beliefs – she spoke about how some people in Burma ask her and her party how soon democracy will be brought to Burma. She responds by asking the people what they are doing to bring democracy. She said that if people want change, they should not expect others to bring it to them but instead, they should be challenged to join the fight. I think we could all benefit from this advice – if we want change, we should see what we can do to make change and not just watch (and bitch about) others doing it for us.
2. Striving to achieve for others over my own comforts – Daw Suu Kyi’s husband remained in the United Kingdom while she was under house arrest in Burma. Yet they kept their family together. She chose to remain in Burma to fight for the freedom of her people rather than leaving the country to be with her family (which would result in her not being allowed back in the country). This reiterated to me how lucky I am in comparison to the majority of the people in the world and how I should work to give more back to the world as I have so much!
3. Condemnation – Burma has many different people groups, some of which are openly hostile and attack each other. One such example is the violence between the Buddhists and the Muslim’s in the Rohinga state. Daw Suu Kyi has often been asked which side she condemns, however she refuses to condemn a side. Her goal is reconciliation and she sees condemnation as further dividing people and setting others against each other. When she spoke about this, she was graceful yet had steel in her voice. A brilliant woman!
4. One quote: “It is irresponsible to make a situation out to be worse than it really is” when talking about an attack and subsequent arrest in 1996 where four of her colleagues were killed, many injured.
5. Study and experience are important to change the world – Daw Suu Kyi has studied in India, at Oxford University, in London and Japan. She did speak about the huge gap between politics and academia – a difference similar to that of theory and practice. As much as I can be a characteristic ‘Gen Y’, I am increasingly aware that if I want to affect change in other countries, I’ll need a couple more decades of hard work. In addition, any further studies I undertake should focus on what will best help me achieve my goals.
6. Posture – her posture was incredible! And this small thing conveyed a huge amount of dignity and grace. She is 68 years old but looked like a much younger woman. So I am now going to work on improving my posture!