DASSK Video Speeches
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September 20-22 (introduction starting at 37:15)

Host, Charlie Rose: It is my honor and great pleasure in opportunity to go across oceans via satellite to talk to

Aung San Suu Kyi. I hope you can hear me. This is Charlie Rose sitting with Archbishop Tutu here in New York, there you are. Please join me here in New York in welcoming Aung San Suu Kyi who is in Myanmar.

Thank you very much. As you can see there's a standing ovation here in New York for you, which is a tribute to the respect that the world has for you. How are you? And how goes your own struggle for democracy?

Aung San Suu Kyi: I'm well and very happy to see both of you especially Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who I have always wanted to meet in person, but this is almost as good. And it's very kind of you to get in touch with me in this way. You ask how our struggle is getting on: it's getting on. It's not easy, and I'm sure every South African knows how difficult this kind of struggle can be and [to just talk about reconciliation]. But the reconciliation bit is sometimes the most difficult of all because both sides have to be prepared to compromise and to give, not just take. Give and take is such a mutual process and we have to find the right balance, so we are at a very difficult stage, but at the same time, as I've always said I'm a cautious optimist. And I'm cautiously optimistic that we're going forward, and that we will be able to get onto the road to true national reconciliation, which is essential if our country is to be the kind of country we all want it to be.

H: President Clinton earlier remembered giving you—after the Nobel Prize—the great honor that this country could bestow upon you. What's necessary in terms of the message that you want to say to the world about the struggle? Because I think of the speech you made about freedom from fear. How have you been able to make this journey when we appreciate the sacrifices you've had to make in not seeing your children, and having your husband die away from your country?

A: All journeys are made step by step. And that's how I have made this journey, step by step. To be quite honest, I didn't think when I first started out about movement for democracy, that I would have to devote my whole life to it. I took it for granted that I would somehow part camp as I went along with my struggle, but it turned out not to be so. But I'm not the only one who is in this position now. Many of my colleagues are working alone without support from family and friends. So I get tremendous courage from looking at them, from looking at how hard they struggle. And they are the unknown soldiers of our cause, and I think the unknown soldiers are far greater and far worthier than people like me, who are known to the world, and that helps us a lot. Because we are known to the world, we are protected to a great degree. Those unknown people who are struggling as much as I am, they are not known to the world, so they have very much less protection. So their courage is tremendous. Their sacrifice is true sacrifice. And if you work with people like that, you are encouraged and strengthened from day to day, to continue this journey step by step. Sometimes there are potholes, but I think we've learned to jump across.

H: I want to bring Archbishop Tutu into the conversation. I, like everybody in the audience, like the idea of you two talking to each other with the values you have, because you've said before, "My goal is not regime change, my goal is value change." Values are what drove the people in South Africa to find their own freedom as well. Archbishop Tutu?

Archbishop Tutu: Well I'm like a smitten young man. I love you.

[laughter, applause]

A: I must return the compliment, I love you.

Tt: I just want you to know how much you have inspired many people, and because you continue to believe in the humanity, even of those who have sought to dehumanize you over these many years, and God is proud of you. In your smiles even through the pain as God looks at the incredible things that you are doing, have done, things that you have suffered, your compassion, your beauty!

H: There he goes again.

Tt: [laughter]

H: Do you believe, do you have to believe, that democracy—full democracy—will come?

A: Yes, I do believe that. Otherwise I would not be taking this journey step by painful, painful step. Because when we really talk about "democracy," we really mean institutions. We want the kind of institutions that will protect the freedom and security of our people. And some people say democracy is a western concept. It's a western word. But the idea of freedom and security beautifully balanced is a concept that is acceptable to human beings across the globe. And this is what we want. People want to be free, but they want to be secure as well. This is why when the Americans fought about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, everybody else could understand that.

We all want our lives to be protected. We all want to be free. We all want to be able to find our own happiness, the freedom to search for our own happiness, build up our own happiness, not to have someone else's idea of happiness imposed on us, whether we want it or not. So I think when we say 'we want democracy,' we want the kind of simple freedom and security that people all over the world want.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is talking about the rights of women and girls. In Burma, women are supposed to have a relatively high status in society, and yet we are still the second-class gender. We can't deny that still when in Burma. And these days there's the problem of human trafficking. And of course the majority of these are women and girls. So this shows there's a lot still to be done for women and girls in Burma, as in Africa and other places in the world. We would like to join hands with those who are trying their best to strengthen the position of women. By joining hands with women all over the world, I think we will be able to achieve our goal, which is security for all people in Burma, men and women.

H: We're losing the sound a little bit, but we heard the essence of what you said. [to Tutu] You have another partner in your campaign. [to Suu Kyi] When you look at the Arab Spring, does it resonate with you because of the struggle you have made for dignity and democracy and that changing the opportunity for people to control their own destiny?

A: Yes, of course. Movements like these, like the one going on in the Arab countries, means something to people all over the world who are struggling for their own freedom. It reminded many of us in Burma of what happened in 1988, when our people rose up to ask for their own democracy. Of course our societies are very different, but in the end we are all human beings, and I think we can all understand each others' hopes and fears and aspirations. We would like the Arab countries to be as happy and prosperous and secure we would want our own country to be.

H: [to Tutu] I'll give you another opportunity, as you sit there smitten.

Tt: I'm dazed. I just want to say how inspirational you have been, pointing out that ultimately, we'll prevail. And we believe God wants this world to be a world that is more compassionate, that is more gentle, that is more caring, that is more sharing. And you live that out. One would have expected that you would be hard. And you're so petite, demure, and uh [laughs]...

H: He's irrepressible. Let me just look at the last year... Oh yes, go ahead.

A: I was going to say this is going to turn out to be a mutual admiration of societies because we've learned so much from South Africa... And you were asking me a question, something about last year.

H: Yes, I wanted you to reflect on: Is it turning a corner, do you believe? You were released in November of last year, 2010. Do you feel that there is real traction taking place in terms of building the possibility of changing Myanmar?

A: I think there's a possibility of change. I think this. I noticed this, how on the very first day I was released because I saw so many young people in the crowds that came, many more young people than I'd ever seen in other crowds that I helped to lead in many parts of Burma before I was put away in 2003. And this made me understand that there was some change going on, change that is coming from the people, and I think that is the best and most profound kind of change.

And of course you will probably have heard that I have talked with some of the representatives of the government, and we hope that we are going to see signs of real change very soon. There has been a lot talk about change. But people always want to see something concrete, and they're right. Talk is never enough. But at least it's a beginning. And I think that we are beginning to see the beginning of change.

H: [To Tutu] Go ahead.

Tt: We have said—I mean I have said—I am looking forward to coming to Burma when you are inaugurated as head of government there, quite seriously.


H: We couldn't hear here because of the applause for that. Could you repeat that?

A: I have to be very, very ambitious because I do want him to come.

H: We're all witness to something that's going on here. Beautiful admiration and more. When you... What is it that the world can do to aid in the struggle that you're engaged in?

A: Awareness, I always say that, what we really need is awareness. Awareness of what's going on in our country. It's not easy to know exactly what's going on. Sometimes I don't know what's going on, I'm not sure what's going on because so much is going on at the same time. But I think we need to cultivate an awareness of what's going on around us, and if the world wants to help Burma, the world needs to know what's happening in Burma. And this means a lot of effort. You don't get to know what's happening in a place just by looking at a newspaper from time to time. I think you really have to follow what's going on there and think about the implications of every small change that you notice. Change is not always for the better. And even if it is for the better, it's not always sustained. So what we need is change in the right direction that is steady and sustainable. And we would like the world to keep an eye on what is happening...

H: Can your neighbors, India and China, do more?

A: ... in Burma, and to help us we know that the peoples of the world, and whether we want to or not... Sorry? I couldn't hear you.

H: Go ahead and continue with what you're... can you hear us as well? Sorry... did we lose...? Whether she can continue to hear us or not, I want to invite President Clinton to come the stage to talk with her when he comes back, when he's able to come out here, because he said to me how excited he was as I said earlier to be here for this conversation with you. So when he arrives I hope he'll come back and join us.

Awareness is one thing that you suggest, that we have to be aware and you just can't come and occasionally check on. You have to have an ongoing sense of the necessity of awareness and contribution. But what is it that governments can do? What can President Obama do? What can Hu Jintao do? What can Manmohan Singh do? In terms of changing the dynamics of the situation?

A: I think first of all they should listen to the voice of the people of Burma. What is it that the people of Burma want? And then, they can decide how they can help, because Hu Jintao and Manmohan Singh, we are neighbors. Burma is a neighbor of China and India, and we've always been good neighbors, and we'd like to continue to be good neighbors.

But times have changed and circumstances have changed. And to continue to be good neighbors, certain policies will have to be changed. I believe the best kind of relationship between any two countries is a good relationship between two peoples. Not between the governments, between the peoples. And this I would like every head of government to keep in mind. That it's the people who matter long-term. And with the United States government, I would like to take the opportunity to say that I very much appreciate what they have done for us over two decades now to help us in our struggle for democracy.

But of course, we always think that more can be done. I think that this is so with people struggling, we always think more can be done. And we'd appreciate very much if the process would help by the right kind of encouragement in the right places. This is not always easy. You will have to decide what is the right kind of encouragement. And plus we're always prepared to tell you what we think is the right kind of encouragement.

H: Are there specific things that you need in order to communicate your own struggle and your own passion? Do you have the access that you now need? Or are there limitations in terms of what you can do?

A: What we really need is... Well this is the kind of thing that I could never have done seven years ago, speaking to you like this and to see you like this, so we are making progress. But we need more sorts of progress. And what I'm very concerned about is that we need our young people to be more fit to cope with the challenges of this modern world. We need a better education system in Burma, we need better healthcare, we need a more open society in which our young people can realize their potential.

H: And are they aware, are the young people of Burma aware of your own struggle? Does everyone understand the plight that you have had to undergo?

A: I wouldn't say that everyone is aware of it or that everyone understands. But I can say that a lot of young people are supporting us and I think more and more everyday, and that's terribly encouraging. We are very much involved in the network for democracy.

H: So social media plays a role in Burma?

A: No, sorry?

H: Social media, as you know, played a prominent role in the Arab Spring. Does it play a role in Burma?

A: I don't think that media has had quite the tradition here that it does in Arab countries when the Spring began. In Burma, we do not have such a developed communications system—can we put it that way?—and very few of our young people really have access to the modern IT technology that played such an important role in the Arab Spring.

H: You have talked about freedom from fear. Remind us how you have been able to have a freedom from fear and why it's crucial in living the life that you have lived?

A: Well if you were frightened all the time, you wouldn't be able to do a thing under the circumstances in which I am to live, and so I think I had to learn not to let fear control me. By freedom from fear, I don't mean that you don't feel things—feel fear—but that you don't let fear control you, that it's not in fear that you decide what you do or even what not to do. You have to get over that fear in order to be committed to a cause in which you believe.

H: You've also talked about changing values rather than regimes. How will you achieve change in values?

A: By talking and talking, I suppose. So far that's what I seem to have been doing. I try to talk to as many of my people as possible, to make them understand what we are working for, what we are struggling for, and why. I mean basically, people have the right to know what other people are doing. If we want them to join us, they must know why we are doing what we are doing. But I have to say that we don't need to explain that much. A lot of other people understand, because they want the same thing that we want.

H: It gives me great honor, again as I said earlier, to invite President Clinton back because of what he said to this audience and what he said to me. So please invite President Clinton.


President Clinton: [to Suu Kyi] Hello.

A: Hello.

PC: I was just jealous of the Bishop and Charlie having all the fun with you. And I wanted to thank you for doing this, and thank you for continuing to lead and to inspire us all, and thank you for being willing to make all of the sacrifices you have made to live the beautiful life you live. We're very grateful. Thank you.

A: Thank you...

H: Thank you so much. This has been a remarkable experience for everybody in this room to have this opportunity to see and hear you live as you were speaking this words of aspiration and affirmation about universal values and your own sense of the very real possibilities for political change. I suspect that President Clinton as well as Archbishop Tutu would very much like to be there on a day that you see the democracy that you have fought for achieved, and they could be on a plane to watch you as they watched Nelson Mandela find the freedom for the people of South Africa. Thank you again for a wonderful opportunity. This audience in New York is standing in appreciation.

A: Thank you...