Political Notebook

Lawmakers unite in effusive praise of Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi received the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker John Boehner, with Laura Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Mitch McConnell.
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Aung San Suu Kyi received the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker John Boehner, with Laura Bush, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, and Mitch McConnell.

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers united by their respect of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi presented her with Congress’s highest civilian honor Wednesday in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Suu Kyi, who later met with President Obama, described the time as ‘‘one of the most moving days of my life.’’

She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008 while under a 15-year house arrest for her peaceful struggle against military rule.


Her long-awaited visit to America finally provided an opportunity for her to receive the honor in person in Congress’s most majestic setting, beneath the dome of the Capitol and ringed by marble statues of former presidents.

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The Nobel laureate said it was worth the years of waiting, being honored ‘‘in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land.’’

Previous recipients of the medal include George Washington, the Dalai Lama, and Pope John Paul II.

She then met privately at the White House with Obama, another recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

They appeared relaxed and were smiling as they talked in the Oval Office. Neither made formal comments to the photographers gathered to briefly witness the meeting.


The low-key nature of the meeting appeared to reflect concerns that Suu Kyi’s Washington visit could overshadow Myanmar’s reformist president Thein Sein, who will attend the UN General Assembly in New York next week, and still faces opposition within Myanmar’s military to political reform.

At the medal ceremony, House and Senate leaders joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in paying tribute to Suu Kyi, 67. Speaker after speaker marveled that this was moment they thought they would never see: Suu Kyi before them, not only free but now a lawmaker.

‘‘It’s almost too delicious to believe, my friend,’’ said ­Clinton, ‘‘that you are in the Rotunda of our Capitol, the centerpiece of our democracy as an elected member of Parliament.’’

Buddhist monks in saffron robes and women in traditional Burmese dresses crammed the venue alongside members of Congress, who set aside the intense rivalries ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

That is due in large part to their respect for Suu Kyi. Lawmakers who have spoken or met with her, and even those who haven’t, speak of her in reverential terms. Her photo adorns some office walls in Congress and her views have been essential in shaping US policy toward the country also known as Burma.


At Wednesday’s emotional ceremony, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, lavished praise on a man who is usually his adversary, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for long being at the forefront of efforts to help Suu Kyi for two decades.

McConnell compared Suu Kyi’s path of peaceful resistance to those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi.

‘‘It was impossible not to be moved by her quiet resolve, her hidden yet luminous heroism,’’ the Kentucky senator said.

Since Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in April, the United States has normalized diplomatic relations with Myanmar and allowed US companies to start investing there again. The administration is now considering easing the main plank of its remaining sanctions, a ban on imports.

Alan Wirzbicki

Associated Press

Romney’s father received public aid

Mitt Romney had harsh words for welfare recipients in a hidden-camera video from a May fund-raiser leaked this week. But his father was once a public aid recipient.

As the Globe has previously reported, George Romney’s family fled Mexico in 1912 to escape a revolution there and benefited from a $100,000 fund established by Congress to help refugees who had lost their homes.

That fund may have been what Lenore Romney, Mitt Romney’s mother, referred to in a video posted this month.

He “was on welfare relief for the first years of his life. But this great country gave him opportunities,” Lenore Romney said in the video, apparently from his 1962 run for governor of Michigan.

Alan Wirzbicki

Alan Wirzbicki

Pick for Iraq ambassador quizzed on Syria

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s choice for ambassador to Iraq said Wednesday that Baghdad is accepting Iranian assurances that it is not using Iraqi airspace to move weapons to Syria, where the 18-month conflict between the government and rebels has devolved into civil war.

Testifying at his confirmation hearing, Robert Beecroft said Baghdad maintains it will not allow its airspace to be used to ship arms to Syria.

‘‘We are pressing them to force the flights to land and be inspected,’’ Beecroft told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Committee chairman John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, expressed frustration with Baghdad and raised the possibility of conditioning US aid to Iraq to force them to act.

“There’s a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways.”

Alan Wirzbicki

Associated Press

Associated Press