In his oration, which many have described as “a masterpiece,” Dr. Dunn spoke not only like the true scholar and historian he is, but also as a consummate patriot helping his country to remake itself and keep the Promise of the nation’s founding fathers and mothers.
He started by reminding Liberians that they are “children of a triple heritage: the Traditional African heritage, the heritage of the Islamic civilization, and the Western heritage.”
He was critical of what he called the “hegemonic True Whig Party” (TWP) which, during its over a century of leadership never accepted dissent. That is why instead of embracing the revolutionary ideas of the preeminent historical Liberian scholar, Dr. Edward Wilmot Blyden, the leaders sent him into diplomatic exile. Blyden argued persistently for a blending of the “triple heritage” toward the creation of a dynamic new African culture; but the TWP leaders wanted none of that. Liberians therefore continued to behave like bats, not knowing whether they are bird or beast.
The orator then posed the poignant question: “Are we ready to answer the clarion call of this age . . . to seize this seminal moment and build an inclusive Liberia on the solid foundation of our triple heritage?”
The occasion of our 165th Independence Anniversary, he declared, “compels us to seek opportunities and infrastructure for mediation to address the historic divides” that have bedeviled Liberians. But before delving into the ‘infrastructures’ he mentioned, he addressed what he called “the intangible dimensions of the issues, the values dimension without which we navigate without a compass.” Liberians, he insisted, must begin by correcting not so much the electricity or budget deficits, but “the national values deficits. I am talking about empathy, solidarity, trust, justice, honesty, sincerity, social responibility, mutual respect, a sense of common identity, accountability, innovation and tolerance.”
One of the big problems with government officials these days is that they do not want to be accountable to anyone; nor do they want to be tolerant of other people’s views. This century-old TWP syndrome is still with us. Our officials, with the exception of the President and probably a few others, do not want to accept any criticism whatsoever. They do not agree with Dr. Dunn, who said in his oration: “Dissent is healthy. It helps to self-correct. It helps us to come to terms with ourselves.”
Liberians would do well to heed the orator’s critical advice, to redevelop within our souls a system of values without which we will NEVER be able to rebuild our country and fulfill the Promise of the Founders. “Without a moral commitment to Liberia . . . we risk everything” even the security and reconstruction that we relentlessly pursuing today, Dr. Dunn declared.
We wholeheartedly welcome the orator’s call for a National Arts and Humanities Council of Liberia that will help us develop our literature, creative arts, including theatre, drama, dance, painting, etc.
This newspaper has long argued that the monied families in Liberia, unlike those in many other places, have historically failed to encourage the creative arts. So, though we are the oldest African independent republic, many other African nations have surpassed us in music, film, theatre and the creative arts.
Just last week the Observer editorially called for an amicable negotiated settlement over the E.J. Roye Building so that it may be renovated and put to use. Dr. Dunn has proffered a brighter idea: after the negotiations, turn the building over to the Arts Council, for use by the literati and artists and for rent to fund Liberia’s artistic development. We pray that both parties will see wisdom in this great proposal and proceed to make it happen.
Dr. Dunn, all of whose children are highly educated, gave another critically important proposal in his oration: that the government and society should take all the nation’s six-year olds and give them first class education to ensure that the nation’s future will be in well trained and secure hands.
The oration was so rich with ideas that we call on all to read it in today’s Observer.