... Our leaders’ sensitivities must lead them to prioritize primary and technical education and international trade and cooperation for the benefit of Liberians and Africans and all peoples.
A Speech Delivered by Romeo T. Kamara, a Recent 12th Grade Graduate of the Class of 2021/2022 of the Maretha International Preparatory High School, at the Bicentennial Forum held by the Liberian Elders of the Republic of the Bicentennial 2022 at Cuttington University, Suacoco, Bong County, November 16 and 17, 2022
Madam President of Cuttington University, Elders, Scholars, Students, Youths, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I stand in this hall with pride, joy and humility, having been chosen by the Elders to give a speech on behalf of the youths of Liberia at this all important event. Thank you for choosing me and for having a voice of the young people heard at this occasion.
Madam President, I congratulate you on becoming, a few days ago, the first Female President of Cuttington University, I also salute our own Elder Dr. D. Evelyn S. Kandakai, who once served this University as Interim President. Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and join me in applauding this milestone in the life of Cuttington and in that of Dr. Romelle A. Horton.
Tonight, I am confident that my thoughts equally represent those of all other young Liberians as I address you on the topic:
My Liberia! My Present! My Future!
Liberia: Land of bountiful rainfall, of soothing sunshine, evergreen vegetation, dense forests, untold wildlife (lions, elephants, reptiles, flying and creeping creatures); the ever-roaring Ocean and productive rivers.
Liberia: Land of Mount Nimba, Lake Piso, Kpatawee; within your belly lies treasures of gold, diamond, silver, bauxite, iron ore … You bear the Footprints of Tubman, Teage, Suacoco, Soko Sacko, Sao Boso, Roberts, Blyden, Guannu and many other heroes and heroines of our Land. “All hail Liberia hail, home of glorious liberty by God’s command!”
My Liberia! I am blessed to be your child, happy and grateful to be a youth – your gem. We the young people, by my definition - persons between the ages of 13 to 35 years old – are Liberia’s greatest asset, not only because we are the highest number of citizens of the land, not just because of our youthfulness and zest, but equally, because so many of us have consciously chosen to seek every opportunity to learn, to achieve and to serve.
Elders, teach and lead us to fulfill our dreams
Today, many of us young people have made a deliberate choice, rightly so, to demand, to engage and to seize every opportunity to become highly educated, skillful and persons of faith, character and high self-esteem. We have chosen to prepare ourselves to harness Liberia’s waters, her mountains, forests, soil, wildlife and wetlands for the benefit of Liberians, Africans and all mankind. We choose to advocate for good governance; national, regional and international cooperation to develop our human and material capacities.
We choose to work and protect the environment – land, water and air – to make our lives and our world a better place for all. We join in the global efforts to grapple with the problems of protecting the environment and in the climate change debate that is right now being held at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Sustainable resolutions are a must if we want to save the planet and survive!
Elders, validate our choice by your support and understanding
We are studying to become medics and public health experts, engineers, agriculturalists, actuaries, scientists and inventors, writers; mariners, climate change experts, financial experts, lawyers, aviators, astronomers; conflict resolution experts, public administrators, educators, trade experts, diplomats, military experts who seek peace; dramatists, industrialists and entrepreneurs; entertainers, athletes, geographers, human rights and gender equality advocates, jurists, environmental scientists, clergymen and clergywomen and the list goes on and on.
Elders, continue to unveil opportunities to us and encourage us
We the youths of Liberia take our cues from the ancient enviable history of the continent up to the debilitating period of colonialism; from the wonders of the pyramids to the degradation era of slavery. We take our cues from the eloquent cry of President Tolbert in response to President Ford’s welcoming statement during his state visit as he honored the invitation of America Bicentennial.
At that Bicentennial Celebration, he said, “Liberia’s priorities are clear. With the total involvement of everyone in every way for self-sufficiency, with ultimate faith and trust in God, and reliance on self, Liberians are fervently determined to raise their nation to height of unprecedented achievement.” Also, we take our cues from the words “Action without thought is empty. Thought without action is empty” (Kwame Nkrumah). We take our cues from both the real and perceived poor governance in many African countries; the lack of human capacity, the lack of financial capacity, the current scourges of diseases, armed conflicts, tribalism and low sense of patriotism.
We take cues from the continued exploitation of Africa’s resources with minimum benefits to Africa. We take cues from the filthiness, congestion and crime in our urban centers and the eroding beauty of our inland. We also take cues from our youthfulness, knowing that time is one of the fulcrums and levers on which we must sturdily stand and propel ourselves into a bright future.
Elders, believe in us
We are making our choices and our demands visible and vocal. This is one of the reasons I humbly accepted to speak at this Bicentennial Forum. Our demands include calls for empathetic ears from our parents, political and religious leaders at home and abroad. Their empathies must be shown by promoting free and fair elections, providing affordable quality education, purposefully directing our attention to careers that would make us instruments for real difference for Liberia; ending military takeovers of democratically elected governments and seeking the best for Liberia and Africa out of trade and international arrangements.
Our leaders’ sensitivities must lead them to prioritize primary and technical education and international trade and cooperation for the benefit of Liberians and Africans and all peoples. They must push for the elimination of human activities that cause climate change issues – flooding, unpredictable weather patterns, extreme heat, extreme cold, etc. They must fight for justice, promote agriculture, gender equality, and religious freedom, freedom of speech and of movement.
Elders, we shall work with you to these ends
The present leaders of Liberia and Africa must aim to have Liberia and Africa, and hopefully no other area of the world, be perpetually termed the Global South – impoverished and underdeveloped; but, that North and South, East and West become a grand world village connected by technology, roads, trade, air links and wholesome ideas.
My Future! Assured of the wisdom of the choices of us the youths and the support of our Elders, we shall enter a future where elections are free and fair and transparent and the electorates choose men and women of character, of ability and of patriotism.
My Future! Teachers earn livable wages. Primary education is free and pupils start school between the ages of 3 and 4 years old. Malaria and other preventable diseases are conquered by improved sanitation and quality healthcare; and, the political will exists to invest in human capacity building. A cure is found for cancer!
My Future! I shall wake up some mornings, in the 2030s or earlier, and drive from Monrovia to Freetown, to Abidjan to just or about anywhere in West Africa on excellent roads just for recreational purposes, and return the same day, if I wish to. Borders and currencies restrictions do not hamper me.
My Future! Liberia is a country with a highly qualified and productive workforce, trained teachers, proper curricula and educational material. My country is a true partner in maintaining world peace. Rape, teenage pregnancy, homelessness and drug abuse are low, if not unheard of. Liberian professionals, industrialists and entrepreneurs abound. Liberian culture and good traditional practices are not sacrificed for urbanization and development. Mortality rate is low and Liberians are living longer and wholesome lives.
Less I forget, my future will be in a nation in which its citizens no longer look to the ocean with anxieties asking “when will the next ship with rice come” and protests for rice no longer hang over the nation. Instead, we’ll be growing sufficient quantities of our stable food, rice, not only for our consumption but also for export.
With our choices, our Elders’ support and God’s grace, such is the future! Thank you!