The newly released Burmese democracy advocate speaks about her selection as an FP Top Global Thinker of 2010.
When FP Global Thinker Aung San Suu Kyi emerged this fall from a house arrest that had lasted on and off for two decades, the world was impatient to hear what this symbol of Burma’s embattled resistance movement would have to say. Would she rage against her captors, the Burmese junta that had just days before staged its first, extraordinarily flawed election in two decades? Would she call for international intervention to end a regime that has become known for its vicious crackdowns on minority and opposition groups and a dangerously laissez-faire attitude toward the drug barons operating along its borders? Instead, the freed dissident made a remarkably levelheaded call for long-term reform of the sort that comes from within: "value change," as she put it, not regime change. And she has already begun to take action, filing papers to reinstate her political party and promising an investigation into the recent election. As she said upon her release, "We have a lot of things to do."
She also spoke directly to you, our readers at Foreign Policy magazine, in an exclusive video message commemorating her selection as a Top Global Thinker of 2010. Noting how the world has changed in the years since she was imprisoned, she reaffirms the need to keep fighting for democracy. Her words are transcribed below:
It is a great pleasure to be able to address you like this today. But of course, it would have been an even greater pleasure if I could have joined you in person. I was greatly honored to find that I had been chosen as one of Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers. Honored, and at the same time humbled. During the last two decades, my life has swung between periods when I have ample time for thought and contemplation, and periods when I hardly had time to catch thoughts on the wing, because there was so much to do.
But in all these years, the one thought that has stayed with me is that we all have to work together to try to improve any situation. That is not an original thought; I think it’s as old as humanity: that there is strength in numbers, that we must learn to help each other. But yet, that is a thought that never ages. I wish I could meet all of you to talk over all the things I have thought about over the last seven years, during which many changes took place in this world.
When I came out of detention, on the 13th of this month, I suddenly found myself in a new world, as it were. The people who came to support me, to offer me their greetings and their continued belief in our cause, were much younger than the ones with whom I had worked many years ago. A whole new generation — or perhaps I should say, several new generations — had joined us, and so it is a younger world. At the same time, it is a startling, stranger world because all these young people were so much more familiar with the new IT revolution than I am. And that really made me happy; it encouraged me, it invigorated me, because IT technology means simply better communications; better communications between different peoples, between different generations.
I do not know what I am supposed to have contributed to the Great Thinkers of this world. All I can say is that I stand ready to be taught, to learn, to learn from the new thinking, to learn from younger people, to learn from those who have spent the years that I have spent in detention out in the free world, seeing what is going on, and from that seeing, learning to think again. We have to think again, and again, and again, and yet, we never come to the end of our thinking. We never come to the final conclusion. That is the beauty of human nature — that we can go on, we can keep on going forward, going upward, going outward in our minds and in our hearts.
This is not the ideas of a thinker that I am expressing to you. These are just the ideas of someone who has lived apart from most of the world for many years and has now come out to join you and to ask for your support, your help, your advice, and for your friendship.
I don’t know whether this is what a Global Thinker is supposed to be saying, but whatever I have said, it comes from my heart, and I hope that you will look upon it kindly. Thank you very much.