In 1822, a group of settler colonists sponsored by the American Colonization Society (ACS) and approved by the government of the United States of America reached the coast of West Africa and landed on Providence Island, today a part of the Republic of Liberia.
The purpose of their journey from the United States was to find a settlement on the continent of Africa for freed African “slaves” or their descendants in America. This settlement would come to be regarded by them as the "Promised Land."
In 1847, having declared the independence of the fledgling nation of Liberia, the settlers adopted as part of the nation's symbol a crest engraved with the motto: "The Love of Liberty brought us here".
As time went on this nation came to incorporate more and more of the indigenous peoples the settlers had encountered on their arrival.
This nation grew to become one of the two independent nations on the continent of Africa. A fact, that brought pride to all of its peoples. Yet, as some indigenous citizens of the nation became educated and developed political consciousness, they effectively came to participate in the political life of the new nation. In time, they began to feel that there was something outdated in the motto, "The love of Liberty brought us here." They saw the motto as excluding them symbolically from the establishment. Thus, in the era of the late President Tolbert, the issue of reviewing the motto was raised. However, no noticeable action was taken to address it.
On the 165th celebration commemorating the founding of Liberia, Professor Elwood Dunn, national orator, appealed for a review of the national symbols on the spirit of the efforts at reconciliation and peace building. In response, the President (Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) commissioned a review panel to look into the matter with Professor Dunn as its chair.
The thoughts expressed in this article reflect a view held by a significant number of our citizens. They believe that it was high time that the motto was revised/reviewed so as to include all of the nation's citizens irrespective of their origin.
Symbols are very important in the art of political communication. They are like Totems, which represent the spirit or soul of a people. They are used to identify a people and their outlook. They should not be taken lightly. If well chosen they can contribute immensely to particularly uniting and solidifying a nation made of diverse ethno-cultural communities. This was done in the case of South Africa at the end of apartheid.
Liberia, a fragmented pluralistic society needs more effective political integration to make for better policy making choices arising from a commonly held political culture. It will also serve to endow the political system with substantial legitimacy.
Peace building requires that we take the issue of the national symbol seriously, adopting measures to correct any misperception. This should be considered as a part of the efforts to not only reconcile the nation after 14 years of civil conflict but also to re-write a comprehensive history of Liberia.
The views expressed here are not intended to be critical of any group or segment of our citizenry. The motto as it stands is understandable for the period at which it was adapted; since the founders of the new nation then were the settler colonists (today referred to as Americo-Liberians) whose sentiments were reflected in the motto: "The love of liberty brought us here." There is no doubt their descendants will understand the need for a change.
What I propose as a replacement for the motto is to keep the reference to and good regard for Liberty which we all share. Hence, I wish to suggest one of the following alternatives as a motto:
1. "For the Love of Liberty We Stand Together"
2. "For the Love of Liberty We Stand as one People"
3. "For the Love of Liberty We Stand United"
4. "The Love of Liberty Unites Us"
I will invite the readers to make their own suggestions as a fitting contribution to resolving this issue.