'The World Has Become Your Home'

18 Jun 2012
At Electric Burma at the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin this evening,  Bono presented Aung San Suu Kyi with Amnesty International’s ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ Award.

The award was originally announced from the stage when U2  played Croke Park in July 2009 - while the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize recipient was still under house arrest in Burma.

Here's Bono's speech introducing the Award - lower down the page is Aung San Suu Kyi's response on receiving it.

Speech by Bono.

'Daw Suu, thank you for being here with us tonight…

We know there are many other places you could have visited.  We understand the signal your presence here sends out, and we are humbled and we are grateful.

While some may be scratching their heads at the fact that on one of your first trips overseas, you decided to visit our small rock in the North Atlantic… no one here is scratching their heads… we all know you came to hold Irelands hand for … for tonights’ game against Italy.

No… there is no one on this island who doesn’t understand how costly the word freedom is. 
How difficult the word justice is to live by.
How quixotic peace can be. 
After all your years of wide-open heartache in an enclosed space, your newly travelled road has brought you here to Dublin at a big old bun fight in your honour…and we love that.

It is one of the great ironies that by your confinement - by giving up your chance to enjoy the world - the world has become your home.

Oslo this morning was your home.

London tonight your home.

Dublin this afternoon your home.

So Failte abhaile… welcome home.

We understand the Irish have been a subtle and sometimes not so subtle presence in your life.
Sean McBride as one of the four founders of Amnesty International helped create an organization that has become such a part of your life. And continues to fight for the release of the many hundreds of prisoners still held in your country.

We give it up for Amnesty International and Salil Shetty, and indeed for Bill Shipsey… And the Burma Action Ireland group… John Boorman who’s here tonight.

We heard tell of the subtle role of Christopher Gore-Booth who introduced you to your husband Michael, and the best man at your wedding… 40 years ago this year. We give thanks for Michael.  And for Alexander and for Kim. Who so essentially loved you by giving up the obvious manifestation of that love. We particularly applaud them today… Kim is with us here.

The not so subtle presence of our band in your life - I’m not sure how many tonight are aware that you came on the road with U2.  That we shared a stage night after night on the 360 tour, that you performed to seven million people over two years....  it was the digital version of you, but as I’ve been telling everybody you are really good live!

We were keen for you to meet the thing that is most precious in our life outside of our families and friends.... our audience. They are really a phenomenon and hungry for all the things you are hungry for... great advocates for Amnesty.

And nightly you reminded them of their potential. That their voices were 'louder than any tank or rocket fire.' That they could be heard all the way to Burma.

We salute any activists involved in these issues and hope they can be heard in Burma tonight. We salute the U2 audience tonight.

Mercifully they were not all political science students carrying a copy of Freedom from Fear…some thought ASSK was a speed metal band from Asia...

And the not so subtle influence of Michael Collins on your father… talking today I discovered Collins was a major influence in General Aung Sans struggle for independence.

Around here we know all too well that violent revolution is the way the world has remade itself from the beginning of time and that war is at the heart of the human story.  But you, Daw Suu, believe something different.

That war can be unlearned and rejected.
That we can reboot the human spirit.  Through hard reflection and rigorous actions.
If Pascal was right when he suggested 'all of humanities problems stem from man's inability to sit still in a room'… well thank God you’re a woman, thank God you’re a woman. Twenty three years is a long time to sit still.

Our Yeats would say 'Peace comes dropping slow'… from you we get the feeling that peace is not the absence of war around us but rather the absence of war within us. And that the foundations of a better future are better laid by mortar spared of blood.

That is why the Amnesty Award was created - with the hope that every so often someone with ideas as noble as their ambitions might come along to claim it.
Well, here you are…receiving this award.
But the honour is ours just to be in your presence.
Everybody is here to sing for you tonight, but it’s your song that everyone wants to hear.
It’s your song we need on the radio all over the world… your words… your topline melody.
It’s a timeless song yet it seems more important in this time, than ever before.
Please welcome to the stage… Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.'

Speech by Aung San Suu Kyi.

'To receive this award is to remind me that 24 years ago I took on duties from which I shall never be delivered but you have given me the strength to carry on and you have showed me that I should not be alone as I discharge my duties.
So many people have asked me what it feels like to come out of Burma for the first time in 24 years. This journey actually started with a short trip to Thailand a couple of weeks ago and now I’ve been to Switzerland and to Norway and here this evening in Ireland and now I know the answer when people ask me how does it feel: 'moving' is the word and by 'moving' I mean a stirring of the heart as well as an impetus towards the goal - a new impetus towards the goal we have been looking to for the last 24 years. You have helped us greatly.
'I have to confess that I  never knew how many people cared for us and for our cause until I started out on this journey which started in Thailand, as I said, a couple of weeks ago. I was amazed and deeply touched and moved by the warmth that the Thais showed, that they demonstrated for me and for my cause and then on this journey to the West,  and Switzerland and Norway and here in Ireland.
 I have discovered how much more people care - I had not expected this, this has come as a surprise to me, and a very moving one. I feel very close to you. The British used to refer to the Burmese as the Irish of the East. We never quite understood why. Some said it was because we never gave them any peace, we were very rebellious,  and others said it was because our men like their drink and we are all rather superstitious.
For whatever reason tonight I feel proud to be your Eastern counterpart. I am very happy to be the Irish of the East.
'Throughout these years, you and others like you, and Amnesty International and other organisations like Amnesty International have helped us to keep our small wick of self respect alight. You have helped to keep the light. And we hope that you will be with us in the years to come, that you will be able to join us in our dreams and not take either your eyes or your mind off us,  and that you will help us to be the country where hope and history merges.'


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