Suu Kyi rose to prominence during a failed pro-democracy uprising to protest Burma's military-backed regime in 1988. Thousands of the 1988 protesters were killed and tens of thousands more - including Oxford-educated Suu Kyi - spent years as political prisoners. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party was subsequently stymied by the junta's iron grip on the country.
But Suu Kyi voiced cautious hope Tuesday.
"The differences and problems we have amongst ourselves, I think we can join hands and reconcile and move forward and solve any problems," she said. Suu Kyi delivered most of her speech - and answered most questions - in Burmese, with an English translation by video.
For some Burmese residents, Suu Kyi's visit was the first tangible connection with the homeland they hope to return to one day.
"I would appreciate and be very grateful if you could look back to your home country, which is Burma," she said.
Myanmar's half century of military rule invited crippling international sanctions. But President Thein Sein, who is visiting New York this week, has introduced political and economic reforms in recent years, and the U.S. is considering easing the main plank of its remaining sanctions, a ban on imports.
Suu Kyi, who already has met with President Barack Obama and received Congress' highest honor, said the sanctions were effective in pushing the junta to reform but that "they should now be lifted" so Myanmar can rebuild its economy.
"We cannot only depend on external support and support of our friends from other nations. We should also depend on ourselves to reach this goal," she said.