Four years later, Congress extends top honor to Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi

Four years after voting to do so, congressional leaders on Wednesday showered their top honor on Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy advocate and Nobel Peace laureate who's spent most of the last two decades under house arrest.

In an emotional ceremony beneath the Capitol rotunda, leaders from both parties came together in a rare show of unity to hail Suu Kyi for her courage, to applaud her commitment to nonviolence, and to present her with the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest civilian honor the Congress can lend.

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Congress had voted in 2008 to grant the medal, but Suu Kyi's 15-year confinement at the hands of Burma's repressive military rulers – a house arrest that ended in 2010 – prevented her from accepting it.

Wednesday's ceremony – which came just hours before the House was scheduled to vote to lift long-standing financial sanctions on Burma – drew together an odd mix of public figures, including House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE (R-Ohio), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE and former first lady Laura Bush.

The praise was effusive. Indeed, by the end of the ceremony, Suu Kyi had been included among the greatest voices for human rights of the last century, including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel.

"Today we celebrate Ms. Suu Kyi's steadfast commitment to democracy, civility and human dignity," John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE said in opening remarks that set the tone for the event.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (R-Ky.), a long-time supporter of Burma's Democracy movement, lauded Suu Kyi for what he called her "hidden, luminous heroism." Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGun proposal picks up GOP support Gingrich: Banning rapid fire gun modification is ‘common sense’ House bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance MORE (D-Calif.) characterized the pro-democracy icon as "uncommonly courageous." Bush called her the "immovable object" that almost single-handedly broke "the legitimacy" of Burma's military junta.

And Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) – himself no stranger to lengthy trials of incarceration – hailed Suu Kyi's "implacable resistance" and labeled her "my personal hero."

"I've met a number of brave and inspiring people, but none more so than the woman we honor today," McCain said. "They had attacked her, jailed her, threatened her, isolated her, kept her family from her. They'd done all that – done all that could be done to break her spirit and her will to resist – but … Aung San Suu Kyi didn't scare worth a damn."

Speaking last, Suu Kyi said the honor made for "one of the most moving days of my life."

"This is a moment for which I have been waiting for many years," she said. "It's worth the years of waiting."

Suu Kyi also gave special mention to the late-Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat who died in 2008 after almost 28 years in the House. A prominent voice for human rights, Lantos led a 2005 march in front of the Burmese embassy in Washington to protest Suu Kyi's confinement and sponsored a 2008 law that tightened Burmese sanctions.

"When the generals run out of cash,” Lantos had said, “change will come to Burma.”

Said Suu Kyi: "I'm sorry I've arrived too late to be able to meet him."

After receiving the Gold Medal Wednesday, Suu Kyi met with President Obama at the White House. The details of that conversation were not immediately available.