Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with Special Olympics Bharat snowshoer DevAnil Dhingra.
For celebrating the “supremacy of the human spirit,” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi praised the Special Olympics 2013 World Winter Games as “the most touching, most inspiring” of the hundreds of public events she attends each year.
The Burmese opposition leader spoke at Opening Ceremonies before delivering a keynote address on achieving human rights for those with intellectual disabilities at the first Special Olympics Global Development Summit, Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for those with Intellectual Disabilities.
She compared her years of house arrest spent in Burma to the experience of those with intellectual disabilities.
“I understand all too well how it feels to be isolated, to be removed from society and to be parted from those one loves,” Suu Kyi told more than 300 dignitaries from around the world, including Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik of Korea and President Joyce Banda of Malawi. “However, at least I had a radio to link me to the outside world, I had books to read and I knew that there were people rooting for me. Importantly, I had hope that one day things would change for the better. Far too many people with intellectual disabilities are denied even such hope.”
Following the Summit, Suu Kyi experienced the spirit of Special Olympics firsthand, cheering on athletes at the 25-meter snowshoe qualifications. She met with family members from Namibia and Burma before stepping out into the snow in her high heels.
There, she got into the spirit of the competition, wrapping Special Olympics Bharat athlete Dev Anil Dhingra from India in a blanket at the finish line and embracing Dev as they celebrated his accomplishment together.
“Many people asked why I came to Special Olympics,” said a beaming Suu Kyi later. “The real question is why would I not?”
About Karen Breslau: Consultant with Special Olympics