U2 front man Bono said he was star struck by democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi as they traveled throughout Europe together. Bono wrote the song ‘Walk On’ in praise of Suu Kyi and dedicated the 2009 U2 world tour to her.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Bono joined forces Monday as the Myanmar democracy activist’s European tour moved from the home of the Nobel Peace Prize to the land of U2.
The pair spent more than an hour answering questions at an Oslo conference of peace mediators at the end of Suu Kyi’s four-day visit to Norway. Then they jetted together to the Irish capital, Dublin, for an evening concert in her honor.
Bono, who wrote the 2000 hit “Walk On” in praise of Suu Kyi’s long exile from her family and dedicated U2’s 2009 world tour to her, had never met her before. He admitted he found her a wee bit intimidating.
“I’m star-struck … but I’m managing to get over it,” said the 52-year-old Bono, who donned his trademark yellow-tinted wraparound glasses and high-heeled boots.
Suu Kyi, in turn, said Bono had hit the right note with “Walk On,” which was written from the point of view of her husband Michael Aris, who was not permitted to see his wife from 1995 to his death from cancer in 1999.
“I like that song, because it’s very close to how I feel, that it’s up to you to carry on,” said Suu Kyi, who turns 67 on Tuesday. “It’s good if you have supporters, it’s good if you have people who are sympathetic and understanding. But in the end, it’s your own two legs that have to carry you on.”
In Norway, Suu Kyi gave two acceptance speeches for awards she received long ago — the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and the Rafto Prize in 1990 — and is set to embrace more time-delayed honors in Dublin.
At a celebrity-studded concert, Bono is scheduled to unveil Amnesty International’s top prize, the Ambassador of Conscience, an award for Suu Kyi that the singer announced at a Dublin U2 concert in 2009. Suu Kyi was finally released from house arrest the following year.
Also at the Dublin concert Suu Kyi is to receive an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin. And afterward at an outdoor ceremony, she’s to sign the roll of honor proclaiming her a Freeman of Dublin, an honorific title bestowed in her absence in 2000. Amnesty officials also plan to give her a birthday cake and lead the crowd in a chorus of “Harry Birthday.”
Bono said Suu Kyi was exceptionally philosophical and spiritual for a politician. And he expressed admiration over how she had stuck to a position of nonviolence throughout her 15 years in detention.
“It’s really her nonviolent position that I find so impressive, because perhaps I find it hard to fathom,” he said, adding: ” I think she will be remembered for that kind of spiritual insight really, as much as the sort of nitty-gritty of her politics, because she’s a tough customer, too.”
Suu Kyi spent much of her final hours in Oslo focused on that nitty-gritty: the challenge of coaxing Myanmar’s military-controlled government toward democracy without alienating militants from warring ethnic groups who demand immediate change.
Her party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in 1990 only to see the result annulled; boycotted the next elections in 2010; and today has just entered Myanmar’s legislature as a small opposition force. Changing the country’s laws of government requires more than 75 percent support in the legislature — and army members represent a blocking 25 percent of votes.
“We will need at least one army representative to vote for amendments. So we have to work with the army. … We don’t want to be in conflict with them, we want to achieve a consensus,” she said in response to a question from Associated Press Television News.
Earlier, she told the audience of international conflict mediators that building unity among Myanmar’s many warring ethnic groups meant she must remain open to talking with those still committed to violence.
Suu Kyi said she wouldn’t “disinherit or disown” militant groups based along Myanmar’s borders in Thailand and Bangladesh “because we share the same goals” of creating a proper democracy that respects minority rights in Myanmar. Nor, she said, could she promise them that such goals could be achieved without violent rebellion — but they had both a moral and practical obligation to try.
She said her National League for Democracy could “not let go of our conviction that change could be brought about through peaceful means, and in the long run that would be better.
“The wounds that are opened up by violent conflict take a long time to heal,” she said. “And while the peaceful way might take longer, in the end there are fewer wounds to be healed.”