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Laura Bush has an Op-Ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, about human rights abuses in Burma. It’s pegged to the birthday of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s now in her 17th year of house arrest.
What intrigues me about the piece isn’t the sad state of democracy in Burma or the poignant tale of Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Nor do I find it disturbing that the First Lady is using the situation in Burma to cast her husband in a favorable light (“President Bush has called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Ms. Suu Kyi,” she says in her piece). That would be like faulting someone for praising Mother Theresa.
I’m fascinated with the nature of the Op-Ed. CEOs, politicians and others seeking a public presence love to have their names attached to a smart opinion piece that makes them look like a thought leader. I wonder if it works. Will we now pay more attention to Burma because Laura Bush and her staff say we should? (If Bono or Angelina Jolie had written on the subject, perhaps would that run, too) But what if a nobody had written something eloquent about Burma—someone without a PhD or an important title or group to back them up? Are we more interested in the messenger than the message?
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