Myanmar’s famous opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, an honor which was awarded to her while she was under house arrest in 2008.
US officials hailed the human rights activist, praising her “implacable resistance” and “quiet resolve,” according to NBC News.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Today we are proud to honor her with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the Congress can bestow.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “It’s almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you are here in the rotunda of our Capitol … as an elected member of your parliament,” according to NBC News.
Suu Kyi spent nearly two decades in and out of house arrest in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for advocating democracy while the country was ruled by a military junta. The country has recently put forward political and economic reforms under a nominally civilian government, and Suu Kyi was elected to parliament earlier this year.
Former first lady Laura Bush, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. John McCain were also among those who praised Suu Kyi’s leadership, noted NBC.
McCain said Suu Kyi was his “personal hero,” according to CNN. “They did all they could to break her,” he said, voice breaking with emotion. “Aung San Suu Kyi didn’t scare a damn.”
Suu Kyi was also scheduled to meet President Barack Obama in a private meeting on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Obama will be meeting Suu Kyi in the Oval Office, an honor usually reserved for visiting presidents and prime ministers. Reuters noted that the private meeting will have no reporters or cameras present, possibly to avoid causing tensions in the relationship with Myanmar’s government.
“The president looks forward to her visit, as it provides another opportunity to reaffirm our long-standing support for her struggle and the struggle of many others toward democratic, just and transparent governance in Burma,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, referring to the country by its former name, according to CNN.
The Associated Press said the Obama administration was careful to also recognize President Thein Sein, a former military general, who has led Myanmar on its tenuous path to democracy. The Treasury Department announced that it would be taking Thein Sein and a top aide off its list of sanctioned individuals.