President and Mrs. George W. Bush spoke at the graduation of the 2016 class of the Bush Institute’s Liberty and Leadership Forum. The class is made up of of 18 Young Leaders from Burma (Myanmar) who are contributing to their country’s transition to democracy. Phyoe Phyoe Aung and Lin Htet Naing also participated, two Young Leaders of the inaugural class who were unable to attend their graduation in 2015 while imprisoned for peacefully advocating for education reform. Upon their release in April 2016, Aung and Naing were invited to meet with President and Mrs. Bush and to participate in this year’s graduation ceremony.
The Bush Institute’s Liberty and Leadership Forum equips young leaders with the knowledge and skills they need to lead in countries where transitions to democracy are occurring. It uses a curriculum focused on the principles of liberal democracy and economic freedom, lessons from other democratic transitions, and practical leadership skills.
The Liberty and Leadership program begins with a three-week summer seminar in the United States, including coursework at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, and a four-day experience tour of Washington, D.C. Through a combination of an intensive year-long curriculum, hands-on skill development, and practical application, the men and women of the Liberty and Leadership Forum will be equipped to help support democratic change in their home country.
The selection of Burma for the first two classes of the Liberty and Leadership Forum builds on President and Mrs. Bush’s history of standing with Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and the brave men and women of Burma’s pro-democracy movement. While now on a path toward democracy, Burma’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. With the knowledge and skills they gain from the program, the men and women of the 2015-2016 Liberty and Leadership Forum class will have many of the tools they need to succeed.