[Sylvie (alias) is a graduate from Empower House studying in college now. She visited the George W. Bush Presidential Center late November to discuss North Korean Human Rights and Education for Defectors. Sylvie shares her thoughts after the visit.]
Last October, I attended a conference for North Korea in Washington D.C. area. The conference was hosted by the Bush Center, and I’ve participated as a panelist. There, I met the Bush Center director Amanda Schnetzer, who moderated the panel. When she was organizing the November event, she reached out and asked if I could be part of the panel again. I delightedly accepted the invitation.
I had the pleasure of meeting former president George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush. Because they are a couple of power and great influence, I was nervous to meet them. But they were warm and felt like a nice mom and dad. I also imagined them living in a luxurious lifestyle, but according to director Schnetzer, they live like any ordinary Americans. They might have security service agents following their every move, but besides that, I heard they live normal lives. In North Korea, such a humble life of a powerful couple is unthinkable. Even a distant relative of the Kim family lives in a highly respected, comfortable life, and ordinary citizens are ordered to respect them. Compared to North Korea, I couldn’t believe that the former president and first lady of the most powerful country on earth were so modest. It was a big honor to shake hands, hug and converse with them. I will remember this moment so I can stay humble and modest as I pursue my academic goals.
After the conference, I toured the Bush Center museum and learned the legacy of the former president. I was inspired by his accomplishment of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004. By this legislative act, he opened the door to freedom to 200 refugees, including myself, who safely defected to the US. I am grateful for his continued care for North Koreans, hosting conferences, launching a scholarship program and ultimately giving a hope to young defectors to achieve our dreams.