A very touching commentary from a Liberian educator on the eve of this year’s National Flag Day celebration emphasizing the neglect of the observance of the day seemed to have served as a wake-up-call to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her top government officials at the Ministry of Education (MOE). In that introspective commentary, the author, former Assistant Minister of Education, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson, said the once revered Lone Star seemed to have lost its relevance.
Jackson, an Ivy League product trained at Harvard, Yale and University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) in Education, Mathematics and Physics, noted that it is unfortunate that recent Flag Day celebration programs have become voluntary, and are no longer officially or patriotically compulsory. The pomp and pageantry accorded Flag Day has been grossly diminished, he noted, and government officials rather take a day off, counting their blessings from their exploits as they lay in their comfortable couches at home, instead of attending a dull, lopsided and lukewarm Flag Day program. But to the surprise of many Liberians who usually gather to witness the parade as well as students from various participating schools, President Sirleaf and many of her top lieutenants graced the occasion on Thursday.
Many of those who usually marched alongside the students through the principal streets of Monrovia were even amazed that the venue was besieged by security officers who had come to provide protection to the VIPs.
This year’s celebration was indeed colorful because apart from many top officials of government, 29 schools from Monrovia and its environs graced the occasion smartly dressed in their costumes. Guest speaker Christine Tolbert Norman (Mayor of Bentol City, Montserrado County), who spoke on the theme: “Patriotism, the Way Forward for Transformation,” called on Liberians to cultivate patriotism to positively contribute to the development of the country. She noted that the country can only experience development and economic growth when Liberians start to realize their obligation to the country and start acting in more positive ways. After reflecting on the memorable aspects of the National Flag, the Bentol Mayor noted that the act of patriotism should be instilled in Liberian kids. She said it must begin in the early years of children’s lives so that it will become part of them. “And this actually starts from how we look at our national symbols, especially our flag. We need to show respect to it,” she added. The upcoming elections, she said, is a time of test for patriots, and noted that this is the time to put the country first by electing people who will represent the country’s interest, not their own.
Some top government officials present at the ceremony included Minister of Education, George Werner; Minister of Defense, Brownie Samukai; Minister of State, Sylvester Grigsby; Minister of Commerce Axel Addy, and many others.
At the end of the parade, the Buchanan Street Assemblies of God Mission (A.G.M) school was announced the winner of this year’s Cadet Corps, followed by the Gray D. Allison High School. The St. Teresa’s Convent High School was award as the best-dressed school.
A reflection by Mr. Moses Blonkanjay Jackson
“You see, back in the day, August 24th was a memorable time for almost all Liberians, including students, the military, and civil servants,” Jackson wrote. “As a member of the St. Thomas Episcopal Boy Scouts Troop, each year I anticipated competition among fellow Scouters; the best dressed and the one that demonstrated more pranks. We also watched out for how many schools missed the ‘eyes right salute’ at the BTC or the Executive Mansion.
“On Flag Day, as my highly respected Tubman High School led all of the schools, we would march from the Centennial Pavilion, through the principal streets up to the Executive Mansion smartly dressed. During the parade, we would pause before huge crowds to allow our special units and majorettes demonstrate all the values they embodied by their intricate dance steps and drill maneuvers. Truly, gone may be those days, but the Lone Star Banner still floats gracefully since ‘freedom raised her glowing form on Montserrado’s verdant heights.'”