A Message to the Students Taking Part in the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Program

by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

I would like to speak directly to the high school students taking part in the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Program and to people all over the world.

How fortunate that you are honored for your free spirit and not given a place in a prison cell. This is how it is in Burma. You can not express a free spirit without endangering your liberty. And this is something of which I would like you young people to be aware -- that it is a priviledge to be able to excercise a free spirit. This is not so for the young people of Burma.

This does not mean that their spirit is not free, it is certainly free, but they're not about to take wing. And you who have been allowed to take wing, I would like you to go to our young people because they are the hope of our country.

And while Burma now may seem a small and perhaps relatively unimportant country on the international map, I believe strongly in the spirit of our young people. I am absolutely confident that the day will come when they too will be able to spread their wings, but I would like that day to come soon. So I would like to count on you, you young people who are able to stretch your wings and to fly and to soar, to help our young people to do the same thing.

Because the spirit of youth is the same all over the world. This is something I have found to my great joy, this is the hope for our country that the spirit of our young people has not been crushed by an authoritarian regime. And I would like people all over the world to understand this -- that our spirit has not been crushed, not through lack of trying by the authoriatarian regimes that have ruled Burma for decades, but because the human spirit reasserts itself under all circumstances. And this is why there is always hope for our world.

But I don't believe in hope without work. You have no right to hope unless you struggle. You have no right to hope unless you work for the things for which you hope. And this is what I always try to tell our young people -- you must hope, but you must work. The two must go together. The struggle must be your hope and your hope must be the struggle. These two go together. Just as freedom and security go together, hope and struggle must go together.

So you who are lucky, I would like you always to keep in mind those young people who are not so fortunate, but who will one day be able to contribute a great deal to the free spirits of the world because they have known what it is like to be deprived of the right to exercise their freedom.

And I hope that the time will come when the young people of Burma will be able to welcome you to a Burma that is at liberty to exercise our right to take part in the freedom of the world.

Thank you.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, video taped this message which was shown at the Freedom Forum Dinner held on April 24, 2003 in Washington, D.C. Within a month of the taping, on May 30 2003, she was again arrested by the military government and imprisoned without charge.

Date last changed: 2007 September 25

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