The Alumni Association of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) recently assembled at the home of Liberian Observer Publisher, Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best and honored him for what he has done and continues to do for his alma mater and the country.
The event, which was in continuation of celebrations of KYB’s 80th birth anniversary celebrations since October 28, brought together Best’s classmates of 1959, which included Professor Eric P. Eastman, and a host of other alumni, including former Foreign Affairs Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuahn (1989), Jesse Mongrue (1981) and former Ambassador Charles A. Minor, among others.
In his remarks, former Foreign Minister Ngafuan said Mr. Best lives a respectable life and his career in journalism has transcended mere media operations.
“I have learned and understood that longevity does not necessarily mean productivity but in my mind, Mr. Best, a ‘super tiger’ of BWI, has elevated himself to a statesman status,” he said. He said KYB, in as much as it is true that BWI prepared KYB, is bigger than the institution.
According to him, every Liberian should be proud of the country not merely on the basis of citizenship or through naturalization or whatever other means but in the context that Best, among several other great and productive men and women, has originated for the country and has done his best to let the light shine over the nation, even in times of terrible circumstances.
“Your editorials enlighten minds and I know for sure that Liberia will continue to be proud of you. He has been a rock of Gibraltar, as we proceed on our path of evolution,” Ngafuan said. “And thank you for all the contributions you have made to this country. You have been consistent in terms of your values. It is that consistency that we serve. Continue because Liberia needs you even more.”
KYB’s only classmate of 1959 present at the occasion was Professor Eric Eastman.
In his remarks, Eastman said Mr. Best continues to live beyond the Biblical threescore and ten, due to his honesty.
“Kenneth’s prosperous advancement in age and productivity is from God. He deserves every good because he has and continues to use his wisdom for the betterment of society,” Eastman said.
He pointed out that he has not been active with and at activities organized and executed by the BWI Alumni Association because of his teaching career at the University of Liberia for over fifty years.
“With all said, however, I remain hopeful that my turn to give back to my alma mater is at hand and, to begin with, I recommend that during the final exams this year we, the alumni, can sponsor an exhibition on campus.
“At the exhibition, things made by BWI students should be brought forward to the public not only for viewing but funds generation in order to help our great and noble institution,” he said.
Eastman said at of BWI, students were able over the years to make pistols and (weapons) and other utensils commonly used in homes.
“Education is not always about looking in books to solve problems. We need to be practical in terms of applying what we have learned and it is obvious that Liberia can rise if we think and act in this regard,” he said.
According to him, the West or white people are thinking too much for Africans, including Liberians. As such, it will be very difficult for the continent to advance and succeed in its quest for improved and better conditions, including the elimination of extreme poverty, reduction of terrible diseases, among others.
The president of the BWI Alumni Association, Koffa Tenbroh said his association’s decision to celebrate KYB did not spring from a mere wish but on the basis that Mr. Best’s contributions to BWI are enormous.
In response to all the remarks made by his fellow alumni and others who did not even attend BWI but found it befitting to honor him as he turned 80 years old, Mr. Best said he was grateful to have received all of the attention from his friends who know him and appreciate what he does in his private life, as well as in the public through his media work.
“I started going to BWI before I enrolled as a student in the school. It was a difficult moment staying at BWI for four years without any comfort but the good Lord did everything beyond my imagination. I am grateful to every one of you for what you have said and done for me and my family,” he said.
His journalism life started when he was still a student at BWI. Although he was a student of agriculture, he did not miss the opportunity to form part of the campus newsletter. KYB later became editor of the BWI newsletter and, even at Cuttington, he focused on journalism. “The good Lord brought me to journalism,” he said.
KYB said his father, George S. Best, died in 1945 after a protracted illness and left his mother without anything to look after him and his sisters; but his mother was firm and courageous.
“Even though my mother was poor, she was not a selfish person. She sacrificed to the highest degree always by sharing with whoever came her way any little thing she had that could take care of us. Her kindness is also another factor responsible for the good times in the existence of my family,” he said.
The veteran journalist said one of the reasons responsible for his success at BWI and his rise to greatness today is that he did not rush into the social aspects of his life since he knew that he had a dream.
“One thing I didn’t do at BWI was to chase after women. I was very careful with that part of my life for a long time until when I was at the age of 38. I was nick-named the ‘Virgin Best’ but that did not deter me at any point in time,” he said.
KYB added that he married at the age of 38 and he is proud of his life because God has given him a caring wife whose mission has never been to bring him down but support him always in his efforts to overcome difficult circumstances.
About how he got to BWI, the veteran journalist said after he graduated from the seventh grade at St. Patricks in 1955, he got a job at City Hotel (no more) as the first elevator boy and his six months of work at the hotel provided him the money to buy clothes and pay fees for his education at BWI.
KYB said going forward he had to stay on campus every vacation period in order to work for money so as to pay his tuition.
“A friend of mine one time accused me that I didn’t like my mother because I was never concerned about traveling to Monrovia to see her during vacation. All I told him was that coming to Monrovia was of no importance then because my mother could not even afford to pay for my transportation back on campus. So he understood me and that is how my campus life was,” he said.
Best announced the revival of the Porte-Best Educational Fund, which was established in the late 1980s to support less fortunate children in school.
“Albert Porte (deceased) and I had a fund rally several times in an effort to educate children. The account at the International Bank (IB) has been recovered. All I am asking of you is to contribute towards this fund so we can help Liberian children go to school,” Best appealed.