Burmese opposition leader and human rights activist Daw Aung San
Suu Kyi will be accepting her congressional gold medal in person in
Washington, D.C., on Sept. 19.
The presentation will be made more than four years after the
recognition was approved by Congress. The Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Congressional Gold Medal Act, Public Law 110-209, was signed into law
by President George W. Bush on May 6, 2008.
Bronze duplicate medals of the gold medal are to be offered for
sale to the public the same day as the ceremony.
The legislation cites the medal is “in recognition of her
courageous and unwavering commitment to peace, nonviolence, human
rights, and democracy in Burma.”
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate and former political prisoner, is
to be presented the medal formally during congressional ceremonies
being scheduled in conjunction with her visit to the United States.
The rulers of Burma, a nation formally known as the Republic of the
Union of Myanmar, prohibited her from leaving the nation for more than
The formal presentation ceremonies are being arranged by the
office of Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Suu Kyi, chair and general-secretary of the National League for
Democracy, was placed under house arrest by military leaders before
Burma’s 1990 general elections. She remained under house arrest in
Burma for almost 15 of the 21 years from July 20, 1989, until her most
recent release on Nov. 13, 2010.
On April 1, 2012, NLD officials announced Suu Kyi was elected to
the Pyithu Hluttaw, the lower house of the Burmese parliament,
representing the constituency of Kawhmu.
Final designs for the Suu Kyi congressional gold medal were
approved May 7, 2009, by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, but
won’t be released publicly until the day of the formal medal
presentation Sept. 19, according to U.S. Mint spokesman Michael White.
In addition, the identity of the designer(s) and engraver(s) of
the medal will not be disclosed until that time. White said July 19
that the gold medal has already been struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
The Mint’s sales of 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze duplicate medals
will begin at noon Sept. 19.
White said the dies to strike the bronze duplicate medals have
already been prepared and some of the medals already struck.
Until the medal designs are released, the public will not know
whether recommendations made by two federal design review panels were addressed.
The Commission of Fine Arts approved the sole obverse Suu Kyi
medal design presented for the CFA’s review on Feb. 19, 2009, but
rejected the sole reverse design that was submitted. The Mint
presented no other designs for the medal.
CFA Secretary Thomas Luebke said in 2009 that the reverse design
for the Suu Kyi medal needed to be rethought. The members were
concerned with a peacock shown on the medal, which they considered not
to be aesthetically pleasing, Luebke said.
CFA members also questioned the use of a classical Western column
to support the peacock for the representation of Southeast Asian
politics, Luebke said.
CFA members also stated that the word BURMA at the end of the
inscription was lost because of its nearly upside down positioning
below the peacock’s tail, Luebke said. CFA members suggested that the
placement of the graphic elements of the design be reconsidered, he said.
During the Feb. 24, 2009, meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory
Committee, members of that panel approved the same lone Suu Kyi medal
designs presented to the CFA for its review just days before.
CCAC members questioned why the Mint did not provide multiple
medal designs for review and from which to make recommendations.
The CCAC initially wanted to discuss why the medal does not refer
to Burma as Myanmar, the name that the military junta has used since
it came to power in 1962.
When told by U.S. Mint representatives that the Congress and State
Department prefer to still call the country Burma, the committee
members dropped their question. ■