Aung San Suu Kyi Receives Honorary Degree from Trinity College Dublin
Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the most renowned women democrats in the world, was conferred with an Honorary Degree from Trinity College Dublin on Monday June 18th last during her visit to Ireland.
Despite being under house arrest for 15 years until her recent release in November 2011, Aung San Suu Kyi has been a tireless campaigner for freedom and democracy in Burma and the world. As one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners, she has inspired in people an awareness of the primacy of democratic government. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and has won many other international awards for her stance on human rights and democratic reform. She was elected to the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1999 but was unable to travel to Ireland to accept the award.
Trinity’s honorary degree, a Doctor in Laws, was conferred at a special ceremony in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre after the Amnesty International Ireland’s ‘Electric Burma’ concert in honour of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Below is the Oration, with English paraphrase, which was delivered in Latin at the Honorary Degree ceremony by the Public Orator, Professor Anna Chahoud, in the traditional style of laudatory address to recipients of honorary doctorates in Trinity College Dublin.
DOCTOR IN LAWS
Aung San Suu Kyi
Happiness is the fruit of freedom, And freedom is the fruit of courage. (Thucydides, Histories 2.43)
It is a hard and strenuous journey, my friends, to the safe harbour of true happiness, through the struggle for security and independence, through the fight for the right to be free. The ancient philosophers defined freedom as the power of leading the life of your choice (Cicero, Stoic Paradoxes 5.34); the founding fathers of Athenian democracy revered it, as is evident in Pericles’ memorable address to his fellow citizens. When I recall those ideals, I see how similar, and yet how unique, is the voice of the woman who stands before us this evening. We are overjoyed to greet you, AUNG SAN SUU KYI, Chairman of the Burmese National League for Democracy. Welcome, serene Light of Liberty, Promoter of Peace, Ambassador of Conscience. The true child of oriental wisdom, you were nourished by love and loyalty and raised in the peaceful ways of a time-honoured tradition; in your unbound respect for all that is human, you embraced the study of our own humanities at Oxford. The day came – and how deeply mindful of your heroic father were you then! – when your soft voice spoke in dissent against autocracy, in defence of your people, in the face of extreme danger. Not once did you harden your voice or your heart, as one who firmly believes in nonviolence: the strength of your revolution lies in the novelty of the militants—wholly unarmed human beings. The power of faith has sustained you through long years of house arrest: ‘I am free’ is not the cry of a helpless captive, it is a triumphant song of hope. You have suffered greater losses than ever could be expected of daughter, wife or mother: ‘I am free,’ you say, ‘I have always felt free.’ You say: ‘do not be afraid’, and you show us the courage of showing no fear. Here is a truly unbroken spirit, calm and compassionate. When you urge us to search for inner freedom, while liberty and life itself are at stake, you are no theorist; for abstract doctrine, with no regard for the suffering multitude of human needs, is not wisdom, it is perverse indifference. Here is an inspiring leader: the world knows that your forces are armed with justice, courage and perseverance, with no other authority than free-will, sense of responsibility and dedication. No achievement is more deserving of the honours – the Nobel Peace Prize among them – that have been rightfully bestowed on you. Thank you, vibrant voice of hope, for being here to receive our grateful tribute. Walk on, bright guide of our conscience. Walk on, sweet spirit of fearless freedom.
DOCTOR IN UTROQUE JURE
Aung San Suu Kyi
τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ' ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον (Thuc., Hist. II 43)
Arduum est iter et longum, sodales, ad portum illum securitatis quem sapientes dicunt vitam beatam, duces militesque autem salutem ac victoriam, omnes vero homines libertatem, quae recte putatur potestas vivendi ut velis (Cic. Par. V 34). Cogitanti mihi et memoria iussa repetenti auctoris primae civitatis iure popularis Athenienses ad pugnam exhortantis, valde videtur quantum antiquo illi exemplo constet, quantum ab eo contra distet hospes nostra illustris, AUNG SAN SUU KYI, iustissima dux δημοκρατίας Burmensis. Incredibili gaudio sumus elati cum te salutemus lucem libertatis, patronam pacis, almam denique animam qua vivimus ac sapimus. Curiositas te genuit e stirpe Oceani sagaci, pietas te nutrivit parentum fidelissima et mores paciferi antiquissimae patriae, studiis humanitatis apud Universitatem illam Oxoniensem fideliter additis ac feliciter excultis, cum ecce, die infausto quinque et viginti abhinc annos, memor sollemnis pietatis patris violenter tibi erepti, suavitatem vocis tuae firmares ad libertatem populi a dictatura defendendam ac vindicandam in summo discrimine periculi. Nec suavitatem umquam posuisti, quod nulla vi bellum gerendum sit cum inimicis, res vere novae non oriri possint nisi a novitate militiae omnino inermis. In fide fortis, etiam in captivitate quasi domi exilio victor clamasti: ‘libera sum’. Ampliusne tibi ereptum est quam ulla mulier, ulla uxor, ulla mater (nefas!) umquam amiserit? ‘Libera et sum et semper fui,’ dicis, ‘ne timeas’; in ipso enim timore, immo terrore dissimulando virtus exhibitur. Sapientis quidem integrum spiritum et inviolatum spectamus, Academici; at libertatem cum mones in animo esse inveniendam dum libertas atque anima in dubio est, minime (ne dubitemus) de otio inerti ac languido loqueris philosophorum qui in se recedunt turba inopiarum servitudinum dolorum praeterita: quorum non sapientia, sed neglegentia et prava socordia. Ducem denique validam videmus, sed qualem fama veridica tradit exhortari cives et patriae et orbis terrarum in libertate sine metu aetatem agere, nulla acie instructa nisi virtutis constantiae iustitiae, nullo imperio nisi voluntatis pietatis fidei. Quo nihil invenitur dignius praemiis praeclaris – in primis illo vere nobilissimo – pro pace promovenda per orbem. Maximas tibi omnes gratias agimus, quod honore accepto nobis ades et alis spes iustitiae voce atque virtute. Proinde perge, impavida lux libertatis; perge, dulcis dux conscientiae nostrae.