Events commemorating the 101st birth anniversary of Liberia’s ex-president William R. Tolbert, Jr. took place last week in the slain president’s hometown of Bentol, outside Monrovia, with a thanksgiving service at the Zion Praise Baptist Church.
President Tolbert was born on May 13, 1913 and became president in 1971 following the death of long-serving President William V.S. Tubman to whom Mr. Tolbert was Vice President.
Well wishers came from far and near to join the Tolberts as they marked the anniversary of their hero.
The Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance and President of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention, Rev. Dr. Olu Menjay, in his words of inspiration to the congregation reflected on the legacies of the late president, challenging Liberians to keep the dream of President Tolbert alive by doing those things that will ensure a truly reconciled and harmonious nation.
He called on Liberians “to stop and reflect on where we have come from” before deciding to move ahead.
Unless this happens, he said “We run the risk of seeing things in ambiguous ways.”
The Baptist prelate called for reconciliation, justice, job creation and care for one another.
Rev. Menjay said in following the examples of the late Liberian president, Liberians should eschew “distorted vision” which he said leads to destruction.
“Distorted vision led to the execution of 13 officials,” following the coup of 1980 and “distorted vision led to the killing of women and children during the civil war.”
The late president’s grandnephew John Smythe thrilled the audience with songs of emotion and inspiration.
Bong County Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor spoke at the ceremony, saying the day “should remind us of our own responsibilities to our nation, our families and communities.”
On the back of the official program for the occasion were some of the late president’s favorite quotes he used to steer the affairs of the nation.
Two of the quotations read: “If we must rise as a nation, the masses of our people must be raised from the mats on the floors to the mattresses on the beds.”
“If Liberia must be preserved, if she must bask in the sunshine of national prosperity and always be able to dictate her own policies, the strata of ignorance which is widening within her borders must be totally uprooted.”
The thanksgiving service was followed by a benefit luncheon held on the grounds of the “LION HOUSE” in Bentol.
The Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the William R. Tolbert, Jr. Foundation, Mrs. Christine Tolbert-Norman, says fund generated from the luncheon will support efforts to renovate the “LION HOUSE” compound and specifically, create a cyber café to be used to connect to global electronic libraries.
The libraries targeted for connectivity include those of the Northwestern University, Indiana University, Sagamore Institute Research and Leadership Program, Universities and Leadership Institutes around the world, especially in Africa.
Mrs. Norman sees the occasion the beginning of the restoration of the “LION HOUSE”, former homestead of President and Mrs. William R. Tolbert, Jr., which suffered severe looting and destruction during the country’s doomsdays.
The Lion House building, with a lion statute before it, stands out among buildings in a town that is picking up fast following the appointment of Madam Christine Tolbert-Norman as mayor last year.
The Lion House is now the formal headquarters of the WRT Jr. Foundation.
A special William R. Tolbert, Jr. Lecture Series is one of activities lined up for the three day events.