WASHINGTON — Lawmakers united by their respect of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday presented her with Congress' highest civilian honor in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama.
Suu Kyi described it as "one of the most moving days of my life."
She had been 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' most majestic setting, beneath the dome of the Capitol and ringed by marble statues of former presidents.
The 67-year-old 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, Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II.
She then met privately at the White House with Obama, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama "expressed his admiration for her courage, determination and personal sacrifice in championing democracy and human rights over the years," according to a statement from the White House.
At the medal ceremony, House and Senate leaders joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in paying tribute to Suu Kyi. Speaker after speaker marveled that this was moment they thought they would never see. "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."