Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi walked through the doors at PBS Hawaii in Honolulu a few days ago, accompanied by U.S. diplomatic security members. Earlier, a search dog had checked out our TV studio. It's a sad fact that global peace leaders face the prospect of violence.
Wearing fresh flowers in her hair, she signed a broadcast-rights release form and sat down for a 20-minute conversation to be shown at a later time on Long Story Short. PBS Hawaii partnered with Pillars for Peace and Rotary International to make this possible.
Reserved at first, Daw Suu (Daw is an honorific) warmed to the occasion. She said she has no regrets about the choices that left her imprisoned at her home for a total of 15 years, with limited contact with her husband and two sons. She said the Buddhist attribute of detachment comes naturally to her. I asked how her passion for democracy co-exists with this detachment that blunts the pain of tough trade-offs. She said she wouldn't use the word passion--for her, it's determination.
When Aung San Suu Kyi agrees to a 20-minute interview, she means 20 minutes. Her associates gave the sign when time was up. She says more in 20 minutes than most people do, though. She gives direct answers, without delving into background or details.
That evening, I attended a Rotary International dinner in Waikiki at which Daw Suu spoke. It was more than 20 minutes. She hit on familiar themes--as a matter of fact, she quoted a sampling of previous comments. Now a member of the Burma, or Myanmar, Parliament, she said that in order to advance democracy, she's committed to working with the government that imprisoned her. She says it'll take negotiated compromise, noting there's nothing wrong with that kind of compromise.