Dalai Lama To Receive SMU Honorary Degree

April 27, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Praveen Sathianathan

The Dalai Lama will give a speech and receive an honorary degree during the SMU Hart Global Leaders Forum.

The tenth annual forum will take place at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium on May 9.

The spiritual leader of Tibet and Nobel laureate will speak to an audience of about 2,500, mostly high school students, SMU students and faculty.

Tickets for the general public sold out within an hour of when they went on sale on April 27.

SMU students, faculty and staff will be able to pick up two tickets starting May 3 at the Mane Desk in Hughes-Trigg Student Center. A valid SMU ID and birthdate is required to receive tickets, which are on limited availability.

His Holiness won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for using non-violent methods when facing Chinese rule in Tibet.

SMU joins a growing list of universities and colleges that have awarded honorary degrees. This list includes the Miami University, University of Washington, Melbourne University in Australia, the University of Oriental Studies in Los Angeles and Rutgers University.

Previous speakers for the Leaders program have included former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Hart Global Leaders Forum, which is dedicated to turning younger generations into accountable, ethical beings, is sponsored by gifts from Mitch and Linda Hart.

A Journey Through Burma…Past and Present

March 4, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Anne McCaslin Parker

Author Rena Pederson tells her audience at SMU about Aung San Suu Kyi and life in Burma in her lecture "The Burma Chronicles" on Thursday, March 3, 2011. (PHOTO BY SYDNEY GIESEY / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

Students gathered for an Embrey Human Rights Program in McCord Auditorium Thursday night to welcome distinguished journalist Rena Pederson.

Pederson, former editor for the Dallas Morning News and Pulitzer Prize nominee, began the evening by showing a documentary on the history of Burma and the condition the country is in under a dictator military regime.

A few years ago, she became particularly interested in a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been described as “arguably the best known political prisoner in the world.” She is the daughter of Aung San, a heroic man who fought for Burma’s independence in 1948. Just as the country was about to hang their first flag, he was assassinated and dictator Ne Win came into power. From this point on, Burma would become a country of unrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi left Burma at a young age to study abroad and became a happily married mother of two. In 1988, she returned home to care for her gravely ill mother when she realized the state of her country. Angry at the regime in power, she was determined to make a change. She became one of Burma’s top political leaders and with country wide support, led thousands of rallies, protests and founded the National League for Democracy.

Thursday night distinguished journalist Rena Pederson spoke at SMU regarding this history of Burma and their military regime.

The Burma Chronicles Flyer. Thursday night distinguished journalist Rena Pederson spoke at SMU regarding this history of Burma and their military regime.

After 1990 elections, it became evident that her party was going to take over the country and Ne Win commanded a vicious crackdown. Thousands became political prisoners overnight and soldiers killed anyone who tried to protest. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for six years.

During her time under house arrest, Rena Pederson arranged for a diplomat to smuggle her into the home of Aung San Suu Kyi for a one-on-one interview. “She was so impressive, I felt her, I was left momentarily speechless,” Pederson said. “She just has such an incredible presence.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, is known as “The Lady” throughout Burma because people are afraid if they say her name they will be prosecuted. Burma is currently under the control of Than Shwe, known as “The Old Man” or “Number One.”

“She is the one who is beloved by the whole country,” said Pederson. “Not him.”

In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and her husband and two sons accepted the award for her.

“She is a lady full of charisma, quality and leadership that some people try to cultivate, she developed it with fire,” said Pederson.

She was only able to see her family sporadically throughout the 1990s and when her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer, she was unable to go to his deathbed because she knew she would never be able to come back. They mutually decided that it was best for her to stay and remain devoted to supporting fifty-five million other people.

Aung San Suu Kyi continues to remain a leader in her country, but the situation has not changed much. Freedom of expression, association and assembly are all strictly limited in Burma. According to Pederson, “This country is so religious. There are all of these people who are so religious and aspire to be so spiritual, yet it is so evil.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush has spoken out many times on the issue of Burma and continues to show her support. “The people live in fear,” Pederson says. “The best thing we can do for the people is to talk about it and keep it in the spotlight.”