Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic opposition leader in Myanmar, also known as Burma, stopped in Fort Wayne Tuesday as part of her 17-day tour of the United States.
Hundreds of Burmese and non-Burmese alike lined up early Tuesday morning to get a good seat at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for the historic visit.
Suu Kyi talked for a little more than an hour about education reform in Burma, constitutional reform, and the need for patience as the country works toward democracy.
She also thanked the people of Fort Wayne for their support, and said continued support of Burmese immigrants in Fort Wayne and elsewhere would be a key in bringing democracy to her country.
“The greatest gift you have to give us is education,” Suu Kyi said. “With education, our people will be able to forge ahead and meet the challenges that lie along the way.”
Suu Kyi spent most of her time speaking in Burmese, directly addressing the city’s large Burmese population, which is one of the biggest in the country.
Before her remarks, Suu Kyi was welcomed by several local and state leaders, including Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, IPFW Chancellor Vicky Carwein and US Sen. Dan Coats.
About half way through Suu Kyi’s talk, there was some confusion by non-Burmese speaking attendees in the audience. The translations that had been provided on the Coliseum’s video screens disappeared until later in the morning.
During the question-and-answer session held after her remarks, Suu Kyi drew written questions from a silver bowl, and addressed a wide variety of topics, including her role in the politics of her country.
In a democracy, she said, she feels everyone has a responsibility to participate in government.
“Politics concerns everybody,” she said.
She also stressed the importance of honesty in leadership.
“A populist leader is not the same as a good leader,” Suu Kyi said. “I hope you’ll keep that in mind.”
It’s been an eventful US tour for the Nobel Peace Prize winner so far. Earlier in the trip, she stopped in New York City and Washington, DC. While in the capital, she met with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other leaders.
She also collected the Congressional Gold Medal she was awarded in 2008, while she was still under house arrest for her political activities in Burma.
Suu Kyi will continue her tour of the US with stops in Kentucky and California.