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Liberty and Leadership

The Liberty and Leadership program is an innovative educational and training program that equips young leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed during a democratic transition. The goals of the program are to foster democratic political currents, cultivate networks of individuals unified around a common vision, and prepare men and women for increased leadership in countries where transitions to freedom are occurring.

The year-long program includes more than 115 hours of training around three pillars of study:

  • The principles of liberal democracy and economic freedom
  • Lessons from other democratic transitions
  • Practical leadership and management skills

Leading scholars and experts from SMU and other universities provide world-class instruction.

Core Components
  • An initial three-week visit to the United States gives participants first-hand experience of life in a mature democracy.
  • Participants return to their country and begin applying their learning; in-country trainings help reinforce knowledge and skills introduced in the U.S.
  • At the end of the program year, Young Leaders return to the U.S. for a final week of site visits and job shadowing to demonstrate key program principles and leadership skills in action. At the conclusion of the week, participants graduate from the program and join the alumni network.


56 young leaders from Burma have participated in the program. Two have run for Parliament in Burma since participating in the program, one was elected.

Meet the Young Leaders

Focus on Burma

Since the launch in 2014, the Liberty and Leadership Program has focused on young leaders from Burma. While Burma recently embarked on a path to democracy, the country’s destination is not yet guaranteed. One key to success is ensuring that today’s young democracy advocates in Burma are prepared to be tomorrow’s political and civil society leaders.

Nearly 300 young leaders from across Burma have applied to participate in the Liberty and Leadership Forum. Fifty-seven men and women have been accepted to the program, including former political prisoners, a member of parliament, journalists, doctors, educators, women’s rights advocates, and other emerging civil society leaders. Representing the religious and ethnic diversity of the country, the young leaders share a common vision for a society rooted in peace, prosperity, and democracy.

Related Articles

Foreign Policy Magazine named young leader Wai Wai Nu a top 100 global thinker in 2015.

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"By giving me the opportunity to learn about democratic principles and leadership skills… The Liberty and Leadership Forum gave me the confidence to express my opinions about the future of Burma.” -Yan Htaik Seng, Liberty and Leadership Young Leader

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