Sunday, November 20, 2011

Resiliency & Perseverance

One needs only to reflect on the past few months and years and it will quickly be evident just how challenging the recent past has been. I am not speaking only as a business leader, a father, a husband, or as an American citizen. As a citizen of the world, the past few years have been deeply clouded by global financial instability, numerous wars and acts of terrorism, natural disasters, governmental gridlock; all certainly raising concerns and posing challenges to citizens across the globe. Often the headlines reinforce the sense that these imposing issues/concerns are building and that the mere idea of an optimistic vision or point of view seems naïve and misplaced.

While I am certainly reflecting on broader issues, this sense of relentless challenge is often felt very close to home. Over the past few weeks and months, I have been faced with a growing set of issues and challenges in my work and across my extended family. Even this past week, the resignation of a key work associate rocked me deeply, adding new and more complicated challenges to what has felt like my already “full” plate. With all of these local and global dynamics at play, I have been reminded, inspired, and refreshed by breaking news of Aung San Suu Kyi and the potential for democratic progress in Burma.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the pro-democracy movement in her native Burma has long been imprisoned by the ruling military junta. After winning popular elections in 1990, she has spent the majority of the past 20+ years under house arrest by the Generals who rejected those elections’ results. After being released in recent months, she has accelerated her work for democratic progress and reform in Burma. Earlier this week, it was announced that she and her pro-democracy party would participate in upcoming elections. The BBC commented that “The move follows a number of recent changes inside Burma, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s release and the first elections in two decades, a formal handover of power by the long-standing military junta to a civilian administration and the release of political prisoners.” In an amazing quote from earlier this week she commented that “she did not believe she had suffered unduly, saying: “I find it rather embarrassing when people talk about my sufferings … I am thinking about others who have suffered more. In a situation like ours people have died, and it seems to me that nobody who is still alive has the right to complain.” Absolute inspiration!!!

As I have read these inspiring words and reflected on the dramatic changes ahead for Burma, I am reminded of the two words at the title of this essay, Resiliency and Perseverance. These two ideas are often forgotten in our immediate gratification, instant headline world. Now maybe more than ever, we need to keep these concepts front and center:

Resiliency: an occurrence of rebounding or springing back

Perseverance: Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose; steadfastness.

Take a moment on reflect on both of these rare characteristics. For Aunt San Sue Kyiv, it is simply amazing to me that after years/decades of house arrest, when released from her “prison” in late 2010, she immediately returns to the work that she had left; the effort to enact democratic reform for Burma. No idea of a sabbatical, or an extended vacation to “recharge” her batteries. In fact, exactly the opposite! It is an inspiring testimony of” resiliency” that this individual, persecuted dramatically and personally for decades, would immediately re-enter the fight upon release. Similarly over the course of the last 20+ years, her focus on democratic reform has never wavered. In moments when she and her party were prohibited to participate in dubious “elections”, in the midst of the ruling military junta cracking down on individual freedoms, and most profoundly during the decades of her imprisonment, her purpose never wavered. This profound “perseverance” continues this week as she has announced her plans to participate in upcoming elections. Truly and inspiring story of “resiliency” and “perseverance” in our time!

As we face the weeks and months ahead I am certain there will be more challenging moments for all of us. Whether from global financial issues, or situations and challenges closer to home, I am certain that we will all find ourselves in moments where hope and optimism seem distant. It’s in these moments that we need to remind ourselves of the amazing and inspiring resiliency and perseverance of Aung San Suu Kyi. Let her endurance and progress be a guide to all of us, and be reminded that the challenges that we are facing today likely pale in comparison to those that she has already overcome.

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