The publisher and managing director of the Daily Observer newspaper, Kenneth Y. Best, last Thursday counseled students of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) to emulate the noble example of Ruth in the Holy Bible, whom God rewarded with great blessings because of her loyalty to her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Mr. Best, who is the chair of the BWI Board of Governors, gave the admonition when he addressed the student body during their regular assembly last Thursday afternoon. He urged them to embrace and practice always the three cardinal virtues of commitment, discipline and loyalty, all of which one of the great women of the Bible, Ruth, possessed and practiced.
Mr. Best began his address with a quotation from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. He recalled that two Fridays ago the President praised the national football squad, the Lone Star, for their commitment to the team and to their country that enabled them to defeat Guinea Bissau 3-1 in a recent encounter. He also commended the coach, James Debbah, the Liberian Football Association and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, all of whom demonstrated commitment to the country’s cause.
She declared, “Good things happen when people are committed to the task they are undertaking.”
“As BWI students, how committed are you to BWI?” Mr. Best asked. “How committed are you to your studies? How committed are you to peace on this campus and to the stability and progress of the Institute, your alma mater?”
Earlier in his introductory remarks, BWI Principal Alex Massey recalled that the sophomores had just the day before, on last Wednesday, flatly disobeyed his instruction not to go to Kakata. The whole class of over 200 had asked to attend the funeral of the mother of their class president and the Principal had said No, the school had already missed several days of instruction and any further missing of classes might put the institute in trouble with the Ministry of Education. He could allow only 20 sophomores to represent the class, but not all of them. Contrary to the Principal’s directive, however, some 120 sophomores left the campus for the funeral in Kakata.
Principal Massey responded by punishing the violators, assigning them to clean the entire campus for three days.
Mr. Massey further told the audience that several male students were in the habit of sleeping off campus, contrary to the rules in the school’s Hand Book. Those violators, too, were being severely punished, and warned that any further violation by them could lead to expulsion.
It was this kind of behavior that prompted the Institute’s Board Chair to come to the campus and address the students.
In his address Mr. Best stressed the importance of discipline, without which he said nothing constructive and positive can be accomplished in any institution, anywhere in the world. He recalled that discipline had broken down at BWI, owing primarily to a new policy instituted in recent years allowing students to choose to be day students rather than boarding students as BWI had always been since opening its doors in 1929.
The Board of Governors recently rejected that policy and moved to restore BWI to its traditional status as a boarding school, with only a limited number of students allowed to be day students.
Indeed, it is because it is a boarding school that BWI alumni have always maintained a strong bond among themselves, wherever they are. This is the reason the BWI Alumni Association, among all other alumni of Liberian academic institutions, is by far the strongest in the nation and in the Diaspora.
Speaking directly to the sophomores last Thursday, Mr. Best, who is also a BWI alumnus, Class of ’59, recalled that when he was a sophomore in 1957, the class was Principal Moses Weefur’s favorite. It was a talented class, with over half of them making the honor roll every sixth period, and more than 10 on Honor Roll A each time. Whatever Principal Weefur wanted done on campus, he first called on the sophomores to do it. The class also won nearly all competitions on campus, including speaking and football, “in which we became the champions that year,” Best recalled.
He exhorted the students to be loyal to one another, to their families, to their school, BWI, and to their country. He then told them the story of Ruth, one of the great women of the Bible. She was a Moabite, not a Jew, but when famine struck Israel at one point, a woman named Naomi, her husband and two sons migrated to Moab country. There the two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, married two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.
Sometime later, Naomi’s husband and her two sons died. She decided to return to Israel, especially after learning that the famine there was over. She told her two daughters-in-law they should leave her and go find new husbands. But the two young women said No, they would rather go with her. Noami insisted they should return to their people. Orpah hugged her in tears, and then went her way.
But Ruth told her mother-in-law, Naomi, “Entreat me not (do not ask me) to leave you, or to keep from following after you. For whither thou goest, I will go. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me until death part me and thee.”
So Ruth followed her mother-in-law back to Bethlehem in Israel, where Ruth soon got employed on a rich man’s farm. She worked diligently harvesting barley, so diligently that she won the attention of the farm’s owner, a man named Boaz.
Boaz eventually fell in love with Ruth and married her. God soon blessed her with a child! The women of the town started singing to Naomi, “Praise the Lord! He has given you a grandson to take care of you in your old age!” The women further said, “Your daughter-in-law loves you. She has done for you more than more than seven sons!”
The women named the child Obed. “And who did Obed become?” Mr. Best asked his audience.
One of BWI’s female students answered: “Obed became the grandfather of King David and the great grandfather of Jesus.”
“That is true,” Mr. Best told the students. “Yes, Obed became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David. And in the Bible Jesus is called ‘the Son of David.’”
“I have told you this story today,” Mr. Best told the BWI students, “to let you know how far virtue can carry you. I want all of you to be people of virtue. There are many virtues—truth, love, kindness, forgiveness and mercy. There are also the three virtues I have spoken to you about today—the virtues of commitment, discipline and loyalty.
“I urge you to inculcate (take in, instill in yourselves) all virtue, most especially those of which I have spoken to you today. God loves virtues and virtuous people—people who possess virtues. Such people, like Ruth, God will bless in ways that they cannot imagine. Ruth had no idea that she was the one to become the grandmother of King David and the great grandmother of Jesus.”
Mr. Best then asked the BWI students to repeat after him: “Loyalty! Loyalty! Loyalty!”
He urged them to remember it and never forget it—and what it did for Ruth.