Published on Monday, 19 November 2012 13:20
The following is an except from US President Obama's speech, which will be delivered at Yangon University this afternoon.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Above all, I came here because of America’s belief in human dignity. Over the last several decades, our two countries became strangers. But today, I can tell you that we always remained hopeful about you – the people of this country. You gave us hope. And we bore witness to your courage.
We saw the activists dressed in white visit the families of political prisoners on Sundays, and monks dressed in saffron protesting peacefully in the streets. We learned of ordinary people who organized relief teams to respond to a cyclone, and heard the voices of students and the beats of hip hop artists projecting the sound of freedom. We came to know exiles and refugees who never lost touch with their families or their ancestral home. And we were inspired by the fierce dignity of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as she proved that no human being can truly be imprisoned if hope burns in your heart.
When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip. Under President Thein Sein, the desire for change has been met by an agenda for reform. A civilian now leads the government, and a parliament is asserting itself. The once-outlawed National League for Democracy stood in an election, and Aung San Suu Kyi is a Member of Parliament. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience have been released, and forced labor has been banned. Preliminary cease-fires have been reached with ethnic armies, and new laws allow for a more open economy.
So today, I have come to keep my promise, and extend the hand of friendship. America now has an Ambassador in Rangoon, sanctions have been eased, and we will help rebuild an economy that can offer opportunity for its people, and serve as an engine of growth for the world. But this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go. Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished – they must become a shining North Star for this entire nation’s people.
Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected. Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress. Instead of being ignored, citizens who protested the construction of the Myitsone dam were heard. Instead of being outlawed, political parties have been allowed to participate. As one voter said during the parliamentary elections, “Our parents and grandparents waited for this, but never saw it.”
To protect the freedom of that voter, those in power must accept constraints. That is what our American system is designed to do. America may have the strongest military in the world – but it must submit to civilian control. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I cannot just impose my will on our Congress – even though sometimes I wish I could. I appoint some of our judges, but I cannot tell them how to rule – because every person in America, from a child living in poverty to the President – is equal under the law.
That is how you must reach for the future you deserve – a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many, and the law is stronger than any leader; where no child is made to be a soldier, and no woman is exploited; where national security is strengthened by a military that serves under civilians, and a Constitution guarantees that only those who are elected by the people may govern. On that journey, America will support you every step of the way: by using our assistance to empower civil society; by engaging your military to promote professionalism and human rights; and by partnership with you as you connect your progress towards democracy with economic development.
Every nation struggles to define citizenship – America has had great debates about these issues, and they continue to this day. But certain principles are universal – the right of people to live without the threat that their families may be harmed or their homes may be burned simply because of who they are or where they come from. Ultimately, only the people of this country can define your union, but I have confidence that – as you do – you can draw on diversity as a strength, not a weakness.
I say this because my own country, and my own life, has taught me this. The United States of America is a nation of Christians and Jews; Muslims and Buddhists; Hindus and non-believers. Our story is shaped by every language and enriched by every culture. We have tasted the bitterness of civil war and segregation, but our history shows us that hatred in the human heart can recede, and the lines between races and tribe fade away. What is left, then, is a simple truth: e pluribus unum; in America, out of many, we are one nation, we are one people. Time and again, that truth has made our union stronger.
We amended our Constitution to extend the democratic principles that we hold dear. And I stand before you today as President of the most powerful nation on Earth, with a heritage that would have once denied me the right to vote. So I believe deeply that this country can transcend its differences, and that every human being within these borders is a part of your nation’s story.
(White House Press Office)
Comments of some famouse people who attended the speech delivered by President Obama
The Venerable Dr.Ashin Nyarissara
"Obama came here to encourage "Old Burma" to become "New Burma". He did not only encourage, but also gave courage. You need to be brave. If not, I'm afraid of misspelling the word "Change".
Khun Htun Oo (Chairman for Shan National Democratic Party)
"I told Mr.Obama to help our country to become a true federal nation. If our country became a genuine federal nation, I will try my best to cease the sounds of gunfire from the ethnic sides. All the ethnic groups have to work together, not just shouting at here and there. No one else [except yourselves] is to be relied on. All the ethnic minorities want a federal union, nothing else."
Min Ko Naing, leader of ‘88’ Student Generation Group
“His idea about the situation of our country is acceptable. The US’s cooperation is encouraging for our future. Obama knows the value of this university convocation hall he has chosen to deliver his speech. He knows very well about history. He knows that former UN Secretary General U Thant whom most children of today don’t know and our national leader General Aung San were trained at the Yangon University. This university used to be a place where suppressions and oppressions occurred all the time and students were driven out. When history repeats, we can see the truth again. I feel very delighted. We have to listen to what he wants to say and what he sees. Different people have different ideas. But, we have come to know the fact that the whole world will support Myanmar if she changes in a correct way. We need to move forward honestly. We have to compete with those who want to see Myanmar’s reform backsliding. This can happen in any transition period. Anyhow, all the people have gathered strength as the entire world is ready to stand by us. We will promote our confidence. What we have realized that we can achieve democracy by training ourselves. In an interview, a media group told me that when they had interviews with graduated civil servants, they dared not speak out. Not only them, company staff also don’t have the courage to speak out, the media said. It would be difficult to achieve democracy. We need to speak out candidly in an interview. Taxi drivers and street vendors have the courage to speak out. Such courage should be adopted in the educated community. I would like educated people to come to the forefront to face everything.”
Kyaw Ko Ko (Chairman of Myanmar Students' Union)
In the review of Obama's speech, he gives a series of examples Myanmar people will have to take from American democracy. Myanmar's all background history can not indentify with the US's. The US president referred to Myanmar's democratic changes to some degree. His arrival will be a good sign in democratic reform process, bringing hopes for Myanmar people. The diplomatic relations and economic cooperation will be fast and smooth between the two countries and moreover military cooperation will emerge. The changes are moving gradually. The changes might be the ones the people wish. The US is trying to closely touch with Southeast Asian countries and Myanmar is the last one. The US's relation is going well with the rest of the countries in Southeast Asia region. On the other hand, maybe, Obama's arrival is to counter China's rising influence. I don't think Myanmar can shun China's influence. Myanmar is still relying on China. For instance, in Letpantaung problem, Myanmar will not make complete decision on this problem because it is the interest of China. I feel like Obama's positive speech towards Myanmar's democratic reforms. Should he consider further assistance to provide Myanmar, it will be better for the country. I think the US should give more assistance to help democracy, human rights, national reconciliation and internal ceasefire and peace. If Obama's arrival is meant for diplomatic relations, I don't think it will be useful to the country.
U Zo Zam (Chairman of Chin National Party and spokesman of an Alliance of Six Ethnic Parties)
I saw that he only talked on the surface on the ethnic issues that we have been hoping for. But this could be because he didn’t have enough time. Regarding the ethnic issue, to get peace..what everyone has been talking about...and also Our Three Main National Causes - non-disintegration of the union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty... we need to clearly establish the genuine federal system so that our Three Main National Causes will be more effective. The main thing the country needs is that wars are still going on in Kachin State. There are also wars in Shan State. As long as sounds of gunfire do not halt, there will still be obstacles no matter how many changes we have been doing and no matter how we are moving towards democratizations. I didn’t see him giving a clear talk about suggesting (Myanmar) to create a situation to talk about politics in order to get peace. Regarding the military, he is the commander-in-chief. He talked about his view towards his military. Our military is not his concern. He talked a little about his experiences. These are very good knowledge for those who knows how to get them. Otherwise, they can just live as they want.
D Nyein Linn (President of student union committee)
I would like to say ‘thank’ to who invited me to this ceremony. I heard in the address “He said in the intro that how much Yangon University is active in our country’s history and independence history. He mainly pointed out what is happening now. In that point, I would like to say to our leaders how to prepare for the country. In the case of human rights, I would like to say to our leaders and ourselves to take an example from other countries behaviors.
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