Arguably the world’s best-known political dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest in her native Myanmar (Burma). After her release in 2010, she maintained a busy schedule of speaking to various heads of state and her many supporters around the globe.
However, Suu Kyi’s last passport was revoked some 24 years ago. She has not set foot outside of the country in decades. Not once.
But that hasn’t stopped her from touching peoples’ lives from Myanmar to Morocco to Mexico. Whether the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient is addressing students in a packed Virginia Tech auditorium or accepting humanitarian awards, she uses Skype in innovative ways to be present and spread her pro-democracy message.
This week, Suu Kyi joined former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush via Skype at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC. The event was held to launch a program that will document the stories of dissidents around the world who risk their own lives to help their countrymen move toward greater freedom and democracy.
While other dissidents from China, Cuba and Syria, were honored for their selfless work, Suu Kyi’s appearance was clearly the highlight of the Council on Foreign Relations event. Long a supporter of Suu Kyi, Laura Bush stated, “[Aung San Suu Kyi’s] example shows people everywhere that political isolation and prison cannot silence the call for liberty.”
With Skype projected on a massive screen behind the stage, Suu Kyi was able to share some words of encouragement with the other human rights and democracy advocates. She reassured them by saying, “Persevere. You will get there in the end, just go on.”
Suu Kyi also took the opportunity to confirm to the world that she has, in fact, just received her new passport from the Myanmar government. She is making plans to travel to the UK – where her sons live – and to Norway, where she will finally pick up her Nobel Prize… some 21 years after it was originally awarded to her.
Whether Suu Kyi makes her speeches in the future by Skype or in person, she has already shown how Skype can be used to overcome isolation and to make the world a smaller, better place. We are sure that others will follow in her footsteps.