Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has been presented with Congress' highest award, the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of her leadership and commitment to human rights in Burma.
U.S. officials hailed Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a "heroine" and praised her “implacable resistance” and "quiet resolve" Wednesday in a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
"Today we are proud to honor her with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the Congress can bestow," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.
Among those who praised Suu Kyi's leadership were Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain, former first lady Laura Bush, Sen. Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"It’s almost too delicious to believe, my friend, that you are here in the rotunda of our Capitol... as an elected member of your parliament," Clinton said.
"[Suu Kyi's] contribution to Burma is decades old and just beginning," Laura Bush added.
Suu Kyi said receiving the honor was one of the most moving days of her life and thanked the United States for its support of her struggle for democracy in Myanmar.
"From the depths of my heart I thank you, the people of America, and you, their representatives, for keeping us in your hearts and minds," Suu Kyi said.
President Barack Obama was to later meet Suu Kyi in the Oval Office, normally reserved for visiting foreign presidents and prime ministers.
A senior administration official said there would be no news coverage because Suu Kyi is not a head of state. That also likely reflects concerns that her Washington visit could overshadow the country's reformist president, Thein Sein, who attends the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.
On Wednesday, the U.S. removed sanctions that blocked any U.S. assets belonging to Sein and the speaker of its lower house of parliament and that generally barred American companies from dealing with them.
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for championing democracy in opposition to a military junta that held her under house arrest for years, began her U.S. tour on Tuesday by meeting with Clinton.
Suu Kyi warned on Tuesday that reforms in her country had cleared only the "first hurdle" and said she supported an easing of U.S. sanctions as part of a broad partnership with Washington.
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says, "I do support the easing of sanctions, because I think that our people can start taking responsibility for their own destiny." Watch Hillary Clinton's introduction and Suu Kyi's speech.
The Nobel laureate said the economic sanctions were a useful tool for putting pressure on Myanmar's military government in the past, but now the people need to consolidate democracy without outside help.
"I do support the easing of sanctions, because I think that our people can start taking responsibility for their own destiny," she said at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on the opening day of a two-week tour.
"I do not think we should depend on U.S. sanctions to keep up the momentum of our movement to democracy. We have to work at it ourselves and there are very many other ways in which the United States can help us," said Suu Kyi.
Since Suu Kyi herself was freed from house arrest in late 2010, she has transitioned from dissident to parliamentarian. Now confident of her position in Myanmar and free to travel abroad without being barred from returning, Suu Kyi has in the past four months also visited Thailand and Europe, where she was accorded honors usually reserved for heads of state.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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