First Lady of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
Upon the Presentation of the Democracy Service Medal
As it has moved down the democratic path, the Republic of China (Taiwan) has been fortunate to have many heroes. Indeed, it is they who have shaped the democracy that we celebrate here today on Capitol Hill, none more so than First Lady Chen Wu, Sue-jen.
Mrs. Chen has earned a special place in the history of Taiwan’s process of democratization, which includes the smooth transfer of power to the former opposition party following the election of her husband, Chen Shiu-bian, in March 2000.
Born to wealth and comfort, Chen Wu, Sue-jen could have chosen an easier life. Instead, she committed herself to the political freedom of her people, an honorable struggle that, while bringing her personal pain and suffering, has also given her the satisfaction of knowing that it helped to advance the twin causes of human rights and democracy.
From the 1979 Kaoshing Incident, when she stood with her husband, then a young lawyer, in taking up the cause that would set in motion his political career, to her own successful bid for a seat in the national legislature following his arrest nearly a decade later and her outstanding work as the First Lady of Taiwan, Mrs. Chen has displayed an abiding commitment to democratic reform. She has managed to do so while enduring an injury that occurred while participating in the political process, one that left her permanently paralyzed.
She has born the scars of her disability with grace and charm, determined to get on with the business of helping her people. Although her public life in recent years has been closely tied to her husband’s brilliant career as a democratic leader, we honor her today as a democratic leader in her own right. She exemplifies as much as anyone the singular democratic spirit of Taiwan, a spirit that Taiwan will soon share with the world through the establishment of its own foundation for the support of international democracy.
For her personal courage, her strength of character, and the inspiration she has provided to the people of the Republic of China (Taiwan), we are proud to present the Democracy Service Medal of the National Endowment for Democracy to Madame Chen Wu, Sue-jen.