President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar, giving particular praise to human rights activist and fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Obama spoke at the house where Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years straight, even as the Myanmar people had voted her into power as the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy in 1990.
"Here, through so many difficult years, is where she has displayed such unbreakable courage and determination,” Obama said of Suu Kyi. “It is here where she showed that human freedom and human dignity cannot be denied."
Military leaders ruled Myanmar until early 2011 and faced heavy political and economic sanctions from outside governments as a result.
However, Myanmar’s president Thein Sein has been working to encourage democratic practices, leading to the release of hundreds of political prisoners like Suu Kyi. As a result of Sein’s efforts, Myanmar has begun to open up politically and economically to the global stage.
Suu Kyi recognized how difficult the shift would be.
"The most difficult time in any transition is when we think success is in sight, then we have to be very careful that we are not lured by a mirage of success and that we are working toward its genuine success for our people and friendship between our two countries," she said, in reference to blossoming relations with the United States.
In a turn from usual diplomacy, Obama referred to the nation as Myanmar, the name by military rulers, as opposed to Burma, the British colonial name that titled the area for decades. That slight shift signifies a U.S. acknowledgment of the current government, indicating a new era of involvement.
"The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished," Obama said. "Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation."
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