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Interesting Times in the United States and Burma

Two weeks ago, the Bush Institute welcomed its third Liberty and Leadership Forum class to Dallas.

Article by Christopher Walsh October 28, 2016 //   3 minute read

“It’s an interesting time to be in the United States.”  This was a common refrain heard by the Bush Institute’s newest class of 21 Young Leaders from Burma as they met policy makers, experts, and government officials in Washington, D.C.

The comment was of course a nod to the 2016 presidential election that’s been driving national conversations about the American democratic process.

Burma is experiencing interesting times of its own.  In the past year, Burmese citizens overwhelmingly elected the pro-democracy National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. This August, the new government initiated a groundbreaking peace conference designed to promote negotiations between Burma’s military and warring ethnic groups and explore the virtues of a federal democratic system.  

Two weeks ago, the Bush Institute welcomed its third Liberty and Leadership Forum class to Dallas.  The program engages participants on political philosophy, democratization, and leadership, but it also brings them to Washington, D.C. to experience classroom theory in practice  The Young Leaders were eager to absorb lessons that might be applied back home in advancing their burgeoning democracy.

They traversed the city hearing about civil-military relations in a democracy from Undersecretary of the Army Patrick Murphy, understanding how the National Archives tangibly connects citizens to their government from U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, discussing policy with congressional staff on Capitol Hill, sitting in the Supreme Court to hear about the country’s most consequential cases, learning about the horrors of genocide from a Holocaust survivor at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and being inspired by the monuments dedicated to the Founding Fathers of American democracy.

A great underlying theme of the visit was how an informed, engaged citizenry is the life blood of freedom and democracy.  Whether American or Burmese, mature or transitioning democracy, interesting times or not, it’s a lesson that must never be forgotten.